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Let Him Be
The car ride back to my uncle’s house was long and silent. Beside me sat my mother crying and whimpering occasionally. My head was throbbing, and my legs were shaking. It was about 11:00 at night and my body was ready to shut down. I didn’t know what to do; I felt helpless. All in one night, my world came crashing down. I kept the thought alive in my mind: he will make it, I know he will. I tried to stay confident in that thought, but I knew there was a chance that he might not.
On a hot July day, my grandfather returned to his home in Aurora, Ohio, after receiving a dialysis treatment. Dialysis performs the function of a kidney, if both kidneys have failed and are no longer able to function themselves. This treatment leaves a person weak and with little energy. While trying to walk up the stairs to his home, my grandfather slipped and broke his femur, the largest and strongest bone in the human body. He was rushed to the hospital. My family had been notified and we decided to make an emergency trip to Cleveland. While in the hospital, my grandmother then developed another infection called MRSA. This disease is deadly and very, very unpleasant. Things for him began to go downhill. Despite the month of medication, treatment, and therapy he was given, his doctors recognized he will not make it. However, my grandfather was not aware of this until my family decided to take him back to my uncle’s house where he could rest peacefully. He thought he had been going home because he was healthy enough and had survived. This was not the case.
I was gazing out the window and began thinking about how often I talked to my grandfather. It was very little and the conversations that we did have were very short and simple. I felt guilty. I will spend as much time as I possibly can with him, I thought with grit.
The car came to a halt and I realized we had already arrived at my uncle’s house. I shook myself out of my deep thoughts and opened the car door. An ambulance parked behind us had already unloaded my grandfather from the back of the vehicle. I dragged my legs, which seemed fifty pounds heavier, to the door.
Inside, I discovered my family gathered around my grandfather’s bedside laughing and full of happiness. I wondered how they could be so joyful. I hesitantly walked closer to get a better look. He had been sitting up and laughing just like the others; the complete opposite of what I thought he was going to be doing. My mother walked in soon after carrying our luggage. I followed behind her to say hi to the rest of my family, but everyone else seemed unimportant at the time.
I was the most eager to greet him. Although he was in good spirits, it felt like he was a completely different person. He was pale and fragile. Needles and tubes had been poked throughout his body, to get the medication he needed. Monitors, machines, and tools laid behind him.
“Hi Grandpa,” I said, choking back tears.
“Hi Jay, I missed you,” he said softly.
“I missed you too! I’m so happy I get to finally see you,” I replied, at a loss for better words. I had decided that I should comfort him as much as possible by acting happy. I came to the conclusion that is what my family had also decided to do. I gently wrapped my arms around him and gave him a hug. Hot tears stung my eyes and flowed down my face. Why was I crying? He was in pain and I wanted him to stay there forever, but I knew there was not a cure. I wanted the best for him, and if it meant that he needed to be pain free, I would not let my selfishness take over.
“I’ll be right back Grandpa, I’m going to go help put my bags away with my mom,” I said letting go.
“Okay make sure to come back down so we can catch up,” he replied faintly.
After about 45 minutes, I had returned back downstairs to talk to my grandfather. At this point, he had his eyes closed and appeared more fragile. Of course, I thought to myself, I’m too late. The medication had taken over his body. I did not want to disturb the few moments he might have been pain free.
I patiently sat at his bedside waiting for him to wake up. I had been the dog, waiting for their owner to come home. My mother knelt beside me. “JJ, why don’t you go have fun with the other kids and I’ll come get you when he is awake,” she stated, understandingly.
“No, I’m okay right here,” I replied back. I was getting the impression my mother did not want me to see him in pain.
“Okay,” she sighed, “I’m going to at least stay here with you.”
“Alright,” I said.
Both of us sat kneeling by his bed and waiting for him to wake up. My mom had stood up in alert. She quickly retorted, “We need to give him his medicine for his mouth.” MRSA not only spread throughout his body, but also on the inside of his mouth.
I watched closely, as my mother had poured a liquid onto a q tip and spread it around inside his mouth. His eyes fluttered open and his face turned into an unhappy look. He groaned, signaling to my mom that this was hurting him. He was too weak to do it himself. To me, this felt like a punch in the gut.
“Mom take it out.” I yelled, “It’s hurting him!”
She quickly took the q tip out and set it on the table, next to his bed. My grandfather’s face eased and he slowly drifted back to sleep. We both sat in silence. I was upset he didn’t talk to me, even though he was asleep. The more I thought about it, the more foolish it became. He was in pain and I just wanted to talk with him. I didn’t understand why I just couldn’t receive something so simple. What was I doing wrong?
It was almost 3:30 in the morning and each hour seemed to fly by. I grew very tired and began shutting my eyes. My family was outside talking and waiting for us to catch them up on every detail.
My grandfather would occasionally wake up, in shooting pains. Other times, he would peacefully sip on water. The treatments had continued and so did the pain, only the pain got more intense. I did my best to stabilize him and take away of a drop in the ocean of pain he was submerged in. No matter how much I did, I still felt like it wasn’t enough.
One of my grandfather’s light blue eyes had slowly opened and looked around. Was he waking up?! I immediately got my family from outside. Everyone had been so pleased to see that he had finally been conscious. A small movement in his hand grasped our attention. Three fingers with all their strength moved slowly, up and down. I think he is trying to say “hello”. Only, this hand movement had two meanings, hello and goodbye. This thought immediately burst my bubble of happiness. Which was he trying to communicate? I wanted to believe he was trying to say hello. Maybe he was trying to say both. He mumbled a sound that no one could understand and closed his eyes again. He took a breath and let it go, knowing this was his last breath of air. This can’t be it, I thought to myself. I never was able to talk to him. I deeply wanted him to stay.
My aunt checked his pulse and announced that there wasn’t one. Tears filled everyone’s eyes, including my own, making my vision blurry. The world felt like it stopped spinning. It was flipped and turned upside down. I couldn’t do anything about it.
He was going to heaven. A much better place than here, where he would be pain free and peaceful. My desire for him to stay with me began to fade. Why should I get my way, while someone else is in pain? This is not how it should work. I needed to let him go for him to feel the peace and calmness he deserved after fighting so much pain. That was the last thing my grandfather wanted to see... his family upset that he was no longer with us.