Last night, Christmas eve, I was wrapping presents alone at my aunt's house in the north of my state, while the rest of the family was at church. The phone rang, but I decided not to answer it, I figured it wouldn't be for me, and if it was, they would call my phone or I could hear them leaving the message.
My aunt came home, and said "grandpa is having trouble breathing." and hugged me hard. We packed into the car, and I cried silently.
When we got there, I wasn't sure of where he was, or how lucid he would be, but I could tell things would be bad when I started hearing loud gurgling sounds like a walrus coming from room 575. I stood outside and hugged the gathered aunts and uncles, and was told grandpa was saying my name. I came in, held his hand. Said hello to him, and that I was sorry that he felt rotten. I told him I loved him, and that if he wanted to die I understand. I sat with him, and held his hand, and at one point realized my 17 year old cousin hadn't had a chance with him. After an hour maybe I decided I wanted to tell him to look after my mom. I knew it might be my last chance. It wasn't.
It happened for hours and hours. Grandpa would doze for 30 seconds, then choke and panic for 2 minutes or so. Someone holding his clenched, bruised hands would be comforting him, telling him he is in the hospital, or that he should look for the angels. Over time, my uncle said something very reasonable "I don't think he is going anywhere yet" he is strong, and his skin is warm and has color. He has pnemonia right now and can't sleep because of it. He is really drugged up, and he had a stroke, so he might have lost some of his logic. Everyone chatted about it and agreed, the nurse had just gotten on her shift, and may have misinterpreted his symptoms as being the end. My aunt set up a schedule where the family sits in 2 hour shifts with him, and all but one of us went home.
I went to my shift this afternoon, Christmas. On the way there, I listened to a Buddhist tape set I bought at a garage sale. Shortly before exiting the car, the tape said "to truly love someone, even when they are suffering, is to simply be present with them." Perfect.
He was so much better than the night before. He was resting for 30 seconds and awake for 30 seconds, and panicking much less. He got a nebulizer treatment, and a new medication, so he seemed better at least, not good, but better. He would hold eye contact with me, and at one point I could very clearly hear him say "I love you so much" which the nurse said she heard too. I reminded him over and over that he didn't need to ask God to take him. I told him he would take him, and all he needs to do is rest. I reminded him that the pain he is in is temporary, and that he will either heal from the pnemonia, or be free from this life, so one way or another, this is temporary.
Now I am in a selfish place. I am proud to say that I am not being so selfish that I want him to live, but I am selfish enough that I want him to live for another week, so I can be there when he dies. How can I want that? He may live. He may live for months. But how can I prefer he lives 6 more days? How can I wish that for him? I really want this to end for him. Soon. I just don't want to be seperate from the family when it happens.
When I left the hospital, I felt really happy and alive. I really felt peaceful and connected to him. he looked deep into my eyes. I swear he said he loved me. I really felt like he understood that his family was by his side, loving him. I really felt that he approved of me. He said it before, even though I am just a flight attendant, he was proud of me. He was proud of my volunteer work. He was proud of me sponsoring an orphan with the money that was supposed to be my Mother's, but he let me have instead. He approved, and now I can show him how much I love him, and he knows.
I suppose I should leave tonight with the expectation he will die this week. Maybe with the hope that he will. I would love it if I could chat with him in 2 weeks and learn how this experience went for him, but even that, could mean that he would have to go through some trauma again. I know how it is to have a flu. I know how it is to be in bed on vicodin, in a daze. I had such an awful night the other week when I had phlegm in my throat and woke up every hour. How could it be waking up every minute?!?!?!?
I should get to packing, I am going to take a 12-2 shift, then driving 3 hours in the dark and dangerous cold. I need to get home for work, so I will do it. I think I can let go of my selfish wish. I can hope this is goodbye. Please let this be goodbye.