One week, two good-byes

This is the first day I’ve had in a week to sit in silence and contemplate the loss of two figures in my life.

First, the phone call came last Tuesday: my grandfather had died. Yes, he was 94 years old, had outlived all his friends, his wife, his generation of family members and was failing. All this I know and realize the only logical future was for him to die peacefully in his sleep. A once-active retiree, his life in recent years had been narrowed to that of being wheeled from one of three rooms in his assisted-living facility. He could not see. His hearing was very limited. He could not walk. This eliminated the ability to read books, listen to books on tape or to watch (or hear) television.

I think all he had to look forward to in a day was his meals and the occasional visitor. So I understand that he is “out of his misery” and “has joined his wife in the after life, heaven, the great reward” or whatever is to be believed. I get that. But the finality of the last grandparent dying really hit me.

So we grandchildren and great-grandchilden said good-bye last week and realized how damn lucky we were to have such wonderful grandparents in our lives for so long.

Parallel to that were the final days of my husband’s cat, who probably was older than 94 in cat years. She had been sick for about nine months, recently diagnosed as cancer of the digestive tract. An unpleasant nine months, as you can imagine what tumors do to an animals ability to digest food.

Watching this cat suffer was as painful as visiting my grandfather. It’s the remembering what and who they once were that makes it so difficult. It took a lot of effort to get this aloof feline to like me.

My mother has wearied over the years in balancing her work with caring for her father. Now that he is gone, she wonders what she’ll do with her time. It became part of her life. So, too, with our cat. The constant care was draining and upsetting, but it became part of our routine. It’s a relief to have it over. But the feeling isn’t without a dose of guilt.

It is my hope that both are truly in a better place.


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"It's not the tragedies that kill us, it's the messes." --Dorothy Parker
February 2008
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