Death is a funny thing, it’s something we live with every single day of our lives for the simple fact that we all know that we’re going to die, but since we don’t know the when, the where, and the how, it’s never something that stays on our mind. It’s not until it affects us personally that the specter of death and the reminder that we’re all too mortal comes to the forefront.
My family has recently learned that my Grandfather is dying. He has cancer and it’s well in the advanced stages. My mother doesn’t think he’ll last past Christmas, and if he does, not long after new year’s. It’s all a bit surreal, going around the house, hearing plans made for a funeral, seeing copies of a will being made and all the final arrangements being set into place while the man is still here with us. What’s more, the fact is that to look at him you’d think there’s nothing wrong. He’s lost a little weight, and his breathing has become harder in the past couple of weeks, but if you didn’t know anything was wrong you wouldn’t think anything of it. Cancer is funny that way. It lulls you into thinking everything is okay when in actuality it’s far from it.
I find myself looking at him, almost studying him. I look at him and my eyes tell me he doesn’t look any different than he did a couple of weeks before we knew. But my mind tells me he’s dying. There’s a man who’s dying right in front of me and for the life of me I can’t process it. He’s not suffering or showing any signs of pain. If anything he seems the same way he’s always been. The only other time I crossed paths with someone who was dying of cancer was my best friend’s stepfather who was dying of leukemia. I vividly remember seeing him just days before he died, lying in his hospital bed, disoriented, not knowing where or when he was, a shell of everything he once was, and just how struck I was by it.
I guess if there’s a silver lining is that my Grandfather’s cancer hasn’t affected him in that way. He’s still very aware of who he is, very much aware of the life he has led. My Grandfather is 94 years old, his birthday is a little over a week away. I’d like him to reach his 95th. I don’t know if he will but I hope against hope he will. I’ve never really been close to my Grandfather, but I find that the past few days have affected me greatly more than I ever thought it would.
I offer him my hopes that when his time comes he’s at peace with his life and everything that’s happened in it. And though, we’ve never really been close, nor has he or I ever said more than a few words to one another at a time, I hope to see him in the next life.
Seal’s Prayer For the Dying has been ringing around my mind these past few days, and these lyrics seem so profound to me now more than ever: “Forceful aging. Help me I’m fading. Heaven’s waiting.”
God be with you Grandad.