I let out a holler of excitement as I saw the blue minivan kicking up dust as it made its way down our driveway. My cousin Vanessa and aunt Cindy stepped out of the vehicle, and my parents and I made our way to greet them. I ran as fast as I could and nearly tackled Vanessa. I already had planned so many things for us to do, games for us to play, and pranks we were going to pull on the rest of the family. I helped carry some of their bags into the house. Shortly after my aunt and cousin were settled in, another van entered the driveway, followed by my grandma and grandpa’s white Ford Taurus. Earlier in the week, my mother had mentioned that grandpa was going to come stay with us for a while because he was suffering from congestive heart failure and my grandma was no longer fit to take care of him. I was only eight years old, so of course the seriousness of the situation did not set in. I was more focused on the idea of it being a big family sleepover for a couple of nights.
But everyone’s stay must come to an end.
Just as excited as I had been twenty minutes earlier, I ran out to the driveway to greet my grandparents and the mysterious van people. The people from the van were Hospice nurses and they came to deliver a hospital bed for my grandpa. Grandpa was not too happy about having to sleep on that bed, but he knew that it was necessary. As they started to unload fancy equipment, I hugged my grandparents and quickly headed back to the house because Vanessa and I had a lot of things to do.
Days passed quicker than I could process. Mornings that I got to spend eating my breakfast next to my grandpa flew by. When the Hospice nurses would come to check on him during the day, I would help them with simple tasks. I owed it to him after all the years he had taken care of me. My grandpa and I shared so many laughs when I would sit in with him and reminisce on things of the past. I had him laughing out loud when I asked him if he remembered the time I hid grandma's dentures and wouldn’t tell her where they were.
I looked over at Vanessa and we bursted out in laughter at the game we were playing on my brothers PS2. I was full of happiness. The clutter we were sitting in made me realize how upset my mom would be if she came downstairs and saw it. So, I gathered our dirty bowls and headed up the stairs to wash them. I set the dirty dishes in the sink and look over to the dining room table. My mom and dad were sitting in silence, staring at eachother. I walked to them. “Can I go say hi to grandpa?” I asked.
My dad grabbed me and sat me down on his lap. “Well honey, you sure can, but you’re going to have to say goodbye as well.”
“What do you mean?”
“Grandpa is going to heaven so why. . .” he cleared his throat. “Why don’t you go say goodbye to grandpa, Rach.”
I walked slowly towards the guest bedroom where my grandpa had spent the past ten days. I tried to process what I had just been told, but all I could think about was if it was real or not. I stepped in the doorway and there was my grandpa, lying so peaceful on the bed that he hated so much. I walked up to him and tried get the words ‘I love you’ to come out of my mouth, but I couldn’t get anything out. I burst into tears and continued to stare at him. I left the room and ran downstairs for Vanessa. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, she looked at me and I didn’t have to say a word. She knew.
For a moment, we just stared at each other, until Vanessa broke and ran for me. We held each other so tightly as if it could somehow keep us from falling apart. When we made our way upstairs I saw my grandma standing on the front deck with my mom and aunt. I stepped outside and the early summer wind hit my body. The aroma of new budding leaves filled the air. The only noise outside was my grandmother sobbing as she looked up to the sky and the soft howl of the wind. I looked up to the sky too, wondering how the sky can claim someone so quickly.
My father was leading me inside when Denise Flynn appeared in the doorway. She was there to take Vanessa and me to her house for the rest of the afternoon. We didn’t want to go, we weren’t ready to leave our family. I was too young to understand the seriousness of the situation. I was too innocent to realize what my family was undergoing.
I grabbed Vanessa’s hand, still hoping our touch could hold everything together. We peeked our heads into the doorway of his temporary room one last time. He looked so peaceful. Is that what the outcome of death was? I had never really thought of it before that point in my life, other than it was one of my many fears. My grandfather looked more peaceful and healthy in that moment than he had in months. A feeling of relief rested over my heart.
Later that day Vanessa and I were brought back to my house. I stepped inside and the silence among my family rang through my ears. I walked down the hall and stuck my head into the room where my grandfather had spent the past ten days. He was gone now, along with the hospital bed, and all of the care appliances. I was relieved that my grandpa was released from his suffering, but I was still so sad. Little did I know the grieving process had just begun and would never end, only get easier.