Saying goodbye to my grandpa, and confronting death in my own life.

My grandpa is dying right now.  He was diagnosed with late stage cancer about a month ago, and he was given 2 months to live by the doctors.  He went downhill extremely fast, he was up and about a month ago and today he’s in hospice on his death bed.

Hospice is a terrifying place.  Hospice is where people go to die.  The staff make the patients as comfortable as possible, but it’s for terminally ill people.  My grandma called me the other day and said that grandpa was taking a turn for the worse.  I knew his disease was winning, but I wasn’t prepared for bad it was.  I went in to see him yesterday and as I was making my way towards his room, I could see sick and dying people left and right in their rooms.  My wife is a nurse so she’s more accustomed to this kind of environment, but I was woefully unprepared for this.

When we finally got in to his room, I didn’t recognize the person on the bed.  Grandpa was always a slender man, but now he is literally skin and bones.  When I say that, I’m not exaggerating.  He looks like someone stretched skin over his skeleton.  His eyes are clouded over and glassy, his skin is loose, and his breathing is labored.  Every breath he takes is in great gulping breathes, as if the only energy his body has left is to desperately suck air in.  He’s almost completely unresponsive anything, including our voices or our hands on his head.  I knew that he was dying, but I had no idea what that actually looks like, outside of movies.  Death is horrifying.  My sweet old grandpa is unrecognizable, and he honestly looks like a monster in a horror movie. I don’t say that to be insensitive, I’m just shocked at how agonizing dying from cancer really is.

I’ve heard that having a baby really hammers home your own mortality.  I haven’t had that experience yet, but seeing my grandpa in this way had the same affect.  I’m very sad for my grandpa, but this experience has made me think a lot about my own mortality.  I know that’s a selfish response in light of his imminent passing, but it’s true.  Death is scary, and I want to protect my child from it.  My grandpa will pass in the next day or two, most likely.  He’ll never know his grandchild, and that makes me really sad.  I just hope that my wife and I do him proud, and raise a child that he’d be proud to call him grandpa.