Friday, May 06, 2011

Getting ready to say goodbye

It's a difficult thing, watching someone you love near the end of their life.

My grandfather, who is and always has been very special to me, has Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and cancer, and is going downhill fast. He's achieved an impressive 92 years on this planet but now he's had enough, he's ready to go. And while on an intellectual level I understand this, agree with it, admire him for his determination to refuse any treatment that might prolong his life - after all, why would anyone want to extend a life that has become painful, frustrating and so much less than it was? - on an emotional level I never want to let him go. The bratty child in me is having a silent tantrum, wants to cling on and keep him with us by sheer force of will, which is nothing to do with what's good for him and is all about me.

But I keep these selfish feelings to myself. I bite them back and I bury them deep. Because all my grandfather needs now is a quiet and tender farewell from those who love him in order for him to pass on and find peace.

So instead of weeping and wearing my inner gloom on my sleeve, I put my best face on, I smile, we talk (when he's having a good hour or two, before the fog that plagues him descends again), we laugh and we reminisce. And I tell him often, as he does to all of us, how much I love him and how lucky I am to have had him in my life. There is as much joy in this house right now as there is sadness.

A life that is nearing its end is one to be celebrated, however bittersweet that may feel to those of us who are living with the certainty that soon - maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe as much as a month or two - we will be left behind. And when the sadness tips over the emotional balance we are all working so very hard to maintain, we remind ourselves how very lucky we are to have been given the gift of being able to say a heartfelt and loving goodbye to this wonderful man who has enriched all our lives for so many good years.


juicyfatkin said...

But we all have memories and stories and that is how people always remain in your life even though theirs has gone.

Helen said...

How beautifully poignant. You are so lucky on two counts - to have had your wonderful grandfather for so long, and for being afforded the chance to say goodbye.

Kate S. said...

You've have to be grateful for what you've got in the here and now, I think, and try not to worry about what happens when it's gone. After all, nothing lasts forever. That's something we all have to deal with at some point.