Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dear Grandpa

I realized I was staring at the Shawnee Mission homepage. What was I doing, I asked myself. A cramp fluttered around in my stomach. Not a true cramp, but rather an engulfing soul-trap that hits when I forget something, when I’m running late, when I have a close call while driving, when something just is not right. Something’s not right.

I looked at the clock and counted back: I had worked five days since receiving the multiple missed-call notifications on my cell phone last Tuesday. That’s enough, I nodded my head, I can’t be here anymore.

February 22 4:59pm Megan updated her status."Grandpa rushed to hospital because he was unresponsive. Awake now, still not too responsive."

I have never had such a clear feeling as that moment, when I knew that I needed to go to him. I am not sure if it was the hand of God or pure intuition and luck. Just over a week prior, I was convinced of a diagnosis and an estimated checkout date and now I was proceeding toward the inevitable.

Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers. Much needed and appreciated. He has pneumonia and will be in the hospital for 3-5 days. Things are still rocky, but we hope after a night or two of antibiotics, he'll feel better.”
February 22, 2011 at 11:17pm · Like

I sat in silence and waited for my substitute. The lights clicked off. I thought of what I would tell Mrs. West’s class if the sub did not arrive in the next five minutes. I’ll tell them the truth, I guess.

When my brother and I arrived at the hospital the Tuesday prior, we rushed into the room in the panicked way people enter ERs on television. Grandpa went from unresponsive to quite flirtatious within the hour. “You’re going to feel a little poke,” explained the nurse as she drew his blood. “I’ll poke you back,” Grandpa responded. We laughed.

Mom, Tav & I took turns at the hospital as we had done on and off over the last ten years. Dad was out of town and we convinced him there was no need to return early. The three of us were so strong, too strong, maybe. In all of the planning, the preparedness, the efficiency, I did not foresee the true emotion that bound me to him. And on Friday it hit me: really, behind all of that might, I am just a granddaughter. An overwhelmed, attached, sensitive little girl.

February 24 1:05am Megan updated her status."It's late, I'm tired, this week sucks."

Mom had “the talk” with us on Friday afternoon. Words that were so anticipated, I knew them like a script, suddenly were weighing down my chest making it hard to breathe. The doctor was taking him off insulin and making him comfortable. Hospice would be called. “I’m going on a trip,” Grandpa told Mom that day. “Do you have everything ready?” Grandpa’s requests for Coke were labored and he cried out often. Dad came home.

February 25 11:57pm Megan updated her status."It's times like this that I really wish I had a pastor around."

I spent that night in the hospital. I wrote Psalm 121 on the nurse’s white board and pushed the second hospital bed up against his. I slept consciously but soundly, reaching to rub his arm whenever he moaned or seemed restless. It was the last time I really felt him there with me. Though the nurses remarked that it was a huge comfort for him, to have me there that night, I selfishly knew that in reality, it was he who comforted me.

On Sunday, we moved him back to The Forum, his skilled nursing facility, where he was welcomed home. We met with Hospice as he slept deeply. I grabbed my laundry hamper, turned my cell phone ringer all the way up and Monday, I went to work.

February 28 12:48am Megan updated her status."Temporary move back home. Need to be close to my family."

And I lasted until Wednesday morning—over a week of deep breaths and holding back tears. My sub arrived just a minute before the fifth grade. He did not seem fully competent, but I looked at my students and knew I could trust them. They can handle things. I told them why I was leaving and accepted a few hugs.

I spent the day sitting with my mother at Grandpa’s bedside. We watched TV on mute, talked, laughed, and sat in silence, listening to the oxygen machine. When I had moments alone with him, I took his hand and told him the story of when he first met Grandma in Japan. I sung his favorite hymns and described Grandma waiting for him in Heaven. The day was a blessing.

Late in the afternoon, the hospice nurse suggested that we both leave the room for dinner. “He may be afraid to go if you are in the room,” she explained. It would be like him not to want to upset us, I agreed. We went into the other room to eat dinner and waited patiently for 45 minutes to pass.

“You’re still here,” I jokingly scolded as we walked back in the room. My mother laughed. “Oh, Dad,” she said.

And within seconds of our return, as we both stood by his bed smiling, he took his last breath.

“He waited for us to come back.”

March 2 7:36pm Megan updated her status."Amazing Grandpa has gone to be with his wife, brother and parents. He is finally healed. I miss him so much, but I know he is in a better place."

The hospice pastor describes Jesus running to greet Grandpa as an old friend. Grandma is there, too.

March 3 5:16pm Megan updated her status."Moments of laughter, moments of crying, moments of contentment, but mostly moments of pondering the dichotomy of how happy I am that he is finally home but how sad I am that he is gone."

The next five days rush by in a fast, well-documented blur.

Pictures are scanned, formatted, printed and framed.

March 4 12:30am Megan updated her status."Spent the day going through pictures and picking out music to prepare for the memorial service on Sunday. We also celebrated his life by eating really good food and reminiscing with my Aunt Juli Highfill. Lucky to have my Dad's side of the family here to support us with my Grandpa (Mom's father)."

11:07pm Megan updated her status."Today was all about pictures and music. Tomorrow will be about...sleeping and music."

Music is chosen. Dad writes the eulogy.

March 5 10:55pm Megan updated her status."We leave tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. for Hudson, KS to say our final goodbyes to my grandpa. Music is prepared, programs are folded, pictures are framed...we are ready to go."

Grandpa goes home to Hudson, Kansas.

March 6 4:23pm Megan updated her status."Finally on the way back home. See ya later, Grandpa. Save me a seat!"

I go home.

11:04pm Megan updated her status."Back in my apt. for the first time in what feels like a long time. Tomorrow is get my sh*t together day."

I am not the same.

March 7 4:38pm Megan updated her status."Now that it's all over, it's all hitting me...hard. Seems like I should have had enough time to process it, but apparently not."

Dear Grandpa,

I’ve always been a seasonal, anniversary oriented person. Milestones are important to me, as are holidays and weather changes. That’s probably why the Winter-Without-Ice has messed with me so much. I often think about how this unnaturally (and annoyingly) warm weather would affect your wheat fields.

I want to tell you what I’ve been up to this past year. It’s been almost a year since we saw each other. Can you believe it? I think about it every day.

So much has happened. So much is about to happen. When you left, I felt like a little girl letting go of her grandpa’s hand after almost 27 years. At times, it felt like I was being pushed out of the nest, but mostly it was like you were still here, supporting me, just not letting me hold onto you anymore.

It was scary and sometimes impossibly hard. It probably doesn’t help that I’m already a bit dramatic, but the non-theatrical truth of it is that you were the one who loved me most. You loved me no matter what, no questions asked. I was perfect to you. It’s difficult to lose that big of a fan club all at once, you know. So much of my self-confidence was wrapped up in knowing that you would always be here for me. I knew that where I was and who I was had to be right, because I was with you.

I recognize now, though, that you let go of my hand a long time ago. You encouraged my crazy dreams and adventures. You always wanted more for me. Tethered to you was the right place for me the last five years, but now we can be connected wherever I am.

I carry you with me in every song I sing, every tune I play on my fiddle, and every student in my classroom. You are there when the little girl needs to hold her grandpa’s hand, again.

So when I’m in Egypt (did I mention I’m moving to Egypt?!) and I am alone and sad, I will remember how much you love me. I will remember how happy you must be, how good it must feel to be free from suffering, back with Grandma.

Thank you for showing me unconditional love, Grandpa. I miss you so much, but I know you are still with me.


March 1 12:07am Megan updated her status.“Almost one year later, I still miss Grandpa like crazy. But, I find comfort in the words of one of his favorite hymns: "I'll be satisfied as long, As I walk, let me walk, close to thee." I'm so glad we still get to walk together.”

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