Every Friday is an adventure. Really, every day is an adventure. But for years now I have been celebrating Fridays with the title “Adventure Friday “. Adventure Fridays usually start with pre-meditation and coffee. Sometimes tea. Then the universe leads the way. For the most part they are happy days. Sometimes crazy. Sometimes sad. But mostly happy. One of my most favorite Adventure Fridays was the day I married my wife. That was a happy day for sure.
But not all Adventure Fridays are happy. Last Friday was an adventure of self-care, family, emotions, grief and relief. It is a day I will never forget. Nor do I want to. It was the day I watched my Grandpa die.
It may sound weird that I am referring to this as an adventure. But this whole human experience is an adventure. And there is nothing more human than death. For me, this adventure began two days before.
It was a Wednesday.
I was in the middle of a month long sit in Las Vegas, NV. I was in a groove with writing, meditating, running and spending quality time with my friends. I was saving the world. When suddenly I felt pulled to leave. It felt like I wanted to run away. I didn’t want to ignore the feeling but I didn’t want to go either. So I talked it out with my friend who I was staying with. We resolved that it must be the exhaustion of high energy constantly swirling around me. I came up with a plan to finish out the week pouring that energy into my writing. And my dear friend came up with the idea to go do something fun over the weekend as a form of self-care. I felt the urge to leave begin to quiet slightly. I was pleased.
As I was becoming focused on the task at hand and deciding what I should write about, I noticed I had a voice mail from my dad. My dad rarely leaves messages. Hmm. “I hope you are having a good time on your trip. Grandpa is dying. He only has a few days” And then I heard my dad begin to sob as he hung up.
I was in shock.
I knew my Grandpa was in Arizona and apparently was dying. That was all the information I had. And frankly that was all the information I needed. Of course I needed to know more details but I didn’t have the capacity to hold much more information at that moment. So I text my mom and asked for her help. I needed to know where I was going, phone numbers and a place to stay. Being a snow-bird, my mom has a home in Arizona, ironically not far from my grandparents (This strikes me funny as my parents have been divorced since I was 2 and yet she lives so close to her ex-in-laws) and she generously offered me her home.
Being that I was in the middle of a month long stay, my entire car was unpacked. Food, clothes, art supplies, books, electronics, hiking gear, my life. So I gathered all of my things and organized them and methodically thought out what order to place things back into my car. The heat outside was 110 degrees. Dry heat or not, it was damn hot. So movement was slowed down, taking water breaks was a must and allowing my emotions to wash over me as they came was therapeutic.
My dear friend that I was staying with was helpful. She listened to me, she hugged me, she gave me space and when I needed it most, she helped carry crap out to my car so that I could organize it as I placed it in its home, Freedom.
In approximately 3 hours, I gathered all my belongings and all my emotions and headed out the door for an adventure I will never forget. As I was walking out the door, my mom sent me a text: “You will need to go directly to hospice. Be prepared. His legs and nose are amputated. Drive safe. I love you.”. Amputated?!? What?!?
Again, I was in shock. Without making another phone call, I simply got in my car and left.
My mind raced as I began my journey. What was I about to walk in on? What the hell happened? Grandpa is dying? I had more questions than I did answers. I cried. A lot. This seemed to give me peace. I understood answers would come later so I decided to simply be in the moment, to not fight my emotions, rather let them wash over me and heal me somehow.
On my way out of Nevada, the sun was setting. The sky was a magnificent orange. I stopped to take a picture. Or three. Okay, maybe seven. I was taking in the moment. I was enjoying what life was giving me, even in the middle of chaos and tragedy. I am actually proud of myself for stopping. While in the moment, I breathed deeply and enjoyed the evening air.
I arrived at hospice at 1130pm. I sat in my car for a few minutes as I breathed slowly and deeply. I prepared myself as best as I could. I really didn’t know what I was walking into or who else would be there. I wasn’t even sure who knew I was on my way there. It didn’t really matter. All I knew is I was going to help my Grandpa let go.
I’m not afraid of death. This is relatively a new thing for me. But I’m not. Death is not something to fear. (Suffering on the other hand…I’ll talk about that in another blog.) We all die. It’s that one thing we all get to go through. And although it is something we walk through alone, I was determined to make sure my Grandpa wasn’t lonely, knew he was loved and that it was okay to let go.
He was in room 2. He was the only one in the room. He was sleeping when I arrived. He did not look like himself. I began to question if it was really him. Yes, this man’s legs are amputated and his nose blackened and disfigured. But his head was shaved and this man was old. Really old. Maybe the nurse had the room number wrong. Maybe I should check.
Then he coughed. It was in his cough, that I could hear his voice. Holy shit, Grandpa, what happened?!? I held his hand. I simply breathed. My mind went blank. No emotions. I just held his hand and we breathed.
Then he woke up. He looked at me with disbelief.
I smiled, “Hi Grandpa! It’s Melissa. I love you!”
He pulled me into him and we hugged. At first, I was afraid to suffocate him as he seemed so fragile. But Grandpa wasn’t having any of it, he wanted a big hug. So we embraced for a while. Tears rolled down both of our cheeks.
He whispered, “I love you, I love you, I love you” and then he fell back asleep.
For the next several hours, I loved on my grandpa. I gently massaged his arms, shoulders and head. I fed him water from a sponge, held his hand and with the nurses help, adjusted him in his bed to keep him as comfortable as possible.
I finally crawled into my car around 3am to catch a few hours of sleep. I’m not sure I actually slept, however I did lie quietly in Savasana, a yoga pose that in Sanskrit, ironically means Corpse Pose. I lied there still and concentrated on only my breath. I went into a meditative state and possibly asleep as it was 515am when I finally looked at the time. I was rested so I decided to get up.
After a quick breakfast of PB&H sandwich and blueberries, I went back to room number 2. There, holding my Grandpa’s hand was a man I did not recognize. But quickly I discovered it was my Uncle. I was young the last time I saw him. I didn’t remember him. But it did not matter. We quickly bonded.
We spent the next few hours loving on my Grandpa (his Dad) and catching up on each others lives. It was also during this time that I discovered the horrific roller coaster the last two months had been.
My Grandpa was a healthy avid golfer. His last game he golfed, he scored his age…78. Apparently that is good. I know the lower the number the better. Also, I know you want to hit the ball in to the hole with the flag and not the lake. Otherwise I don’t know golf. I did play disc golf recently but I didn’t keep score. It was better that way. Anyways, my Grandpa, a few months ago was in good health.
And then he complained of chest pains. Now he was like most people I know, refused to go to the doctor unless absolutely necessary. So when he said he needed to go to the hospital, he wasn’t effin around. It was his heart. Massive heart-attack. Quadruple Bi-Pass. To do the surgery, they took a vein from his leg.
Surgery went well. He began to make a recovery.
But then his feet began tingling. And then they began dis-coloring. He got gangrene in both feet. It was crawling up his legs. Being the fighter for life that Grandpa is, he opted to have both his legs amputated below the knees so that he had the best chance with prosthetics.
Surgery went well. He started rehab and began making progress. He was moving himself from the bed to the chair and back again. He was focused and had a mission to golf. His attitude was positive. He was alive and that was all that mattered.
But then the gangrene took revenge. It opened up the wounds on his knees, took out his nose and was attacking his ears. When he spoke with the surgeon, my Grandpa was told he wouldn’t survive another surgery and that the gangrene was invasive.
Within days, he was in hospice and I received the voice message from my dad that my Grandpa was dying.
So I arrived Wednesday evening. Thursday afternoon, Grandpa told my uncles he was ready to go. And on Friday at 715pm, I watched my Grandpa take his last breath. He was surrounded by love and peace. As he let go, I could feel the gut-wrenching grief from everyone in the room as well as the relief that the suffering was over.
I kissed my Grandpa’s forehead one last time and left the room to make some hard phone calls.
I am blessed to be on a journey that allowed me to be in the right place at the right time. I will miss my Grandpa but am so very thankful his energy is not being wasted any longer in a body that gave up too soon.
Oh yeah, I asked my Uncle about Grandpa’s hair. Why was it shaved? Apparently it was too hard to keep up his good looks and being that Grandpa doesn’t like to ask for help or to have a hair out of place, he asked my Uncle to shave it without consulting Grandma. Grandma wasn’t too happy about it and had some choice words to say. But being the jokester that my Grandpa was, I’m sure it tickled him to ‘get under Grandma’s skin’ one last time. Way to go Grandpa! Enjoy your new adventure!
Love and Hugs, Adventure Mel