Learning To Love You More




Assignment #31
Spend time with a dying person.

Elise M.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA



Gordon M.
June 21st
Grandpa died around 9:40 that night. We had only left his apartment 40 minutes prior. I had spent the evening there with my aunt, my cousin and her boyfriend. We had been watching him in the progressive stages of death for a few weeks now and obviously that night was the worst he'd been.
Despite being on morphine, he still appeared to be in quite a lot of pain---though he never admitted to it. Throughout the visit he'd come in and out of consciousness, generally with odd behavior or out-of-context comments. His nurse had explained to us that in the stages nearing death, this was common and sometimes dreams and reality get skewed causing these behaviors. This proved to be a highly unusual phenomenon to witness. While in these hazy stages of unconsciousness he would do these gestures like he was writing in the air or doing a very specific task with his fingers. Every time he "came back", he seemed to have forgotten that we had been there with him or even momentarily would forget who we were. After standing next to his bed for an hour, I left the room to go to the bathroom. When I returned, I stood at the foot of his bed. He came to and looked stunned to see me in his room, he pointed right at me. I smiled and waved at him and there was this long pause while he blankly stared back at me---still pointing directly at me. All of a sudden a huge smile took over his entire face and he weakly waved back at me.
Grandpa always seemed to have a more serious exterior mixed with a smart, subtle sense of humor. But he was a regular comedian that night, full of one-liners. All of us were gathered around him, standing over his tiny bed. He had been quiet for a long time just trying to remain as comfortable as he could. As we stood in a somber silence he looked over at my aunt Rose (his daughter) who had been holding his hand and suddenly said, "I like your glasses". Before anyone could react, he had quickly slipped away into a very painful state of unconsciousness. When his body had calmed down, he came to again and looked at Rose replying with, "That's a popular frame" then closed his eyes again. We all looked around at each other bewildered and laughed. It was comforting that even on his darkest day (ironically, it was the longest day of the year) he still had his sense of humor intact.
When we returned to the apartment after grandpa had passed, the rest of the family had arrived. Grandpa's three children: my dad, my aunt Rose and my uncle Jerry were in various parts of the apartment. No one was talking. My dad was leaning against the kitchen counter with his chin in his hand; Rose was next to him reading some notes the nurses had written. My uncle was in the bedroom with Grandpa. The whole dynamic of the space had changed. Grandpa was nearly unrecognizable.
Grandpa's nephew Bob performed the eulogy at the funeral. He mentioned treasuring the memories we have of him, the good and the bad. Those of us who were there in those final hours knew, perhaps more completely, what that meant. Though it was painful to see him that way, I'm glad that I was able to be there for him when he needed it most. I have never experienced death the way I did that evening, making the memory all the more special and meaningful for me.