We arrived at the hospital early Saturday morning and he looked so peaceful. But when the doctor came in, the reality of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks. He suffered a catastrophic stroke when a clot that had formed in his heart dislodged and stuck itself in his carotid artery. His entire left hemisphere was injured; speech recognition, the ability to form words, and the control of the right side of his body. Gone... or at least greatly diminished. The man I had grown up with, admired, respected and adored was a shell of his usually vibrant self. And the odds were not in his favor.
After 72 hours of waiting and hoping, we got the final word today... he will not improve... he can't. The damage was too much and the risks for complications were too high. Thankfully he was "awake" a bit more today and I got to see him try to smile. He tried to mumble 'I love you' back to me after I said it to him. He and I had a good 4 minutes together... I didn't say goodbye, I couldn't bring myself to say those words, but I told him how much I loved him, how he was always my favorite, and I held his hand tight. Then I left. And I cried most of the way home.
We, as a family, along with his advance directive have made the exceedingly hard decision to let him die quietly, peacefully, painlessly in hospice. As horrible as that sounds, letting him die, the alternative of a gastric feeding tube and a non-existent "life" in a nursing home, unable to speak, write, or move was never an option for us or him. He deserves better and he went out on top, which is both a blessing and a curse... it is comforting to know he was living a great life and never had to suffer through loosing his faculties, but it is beyond hard to comprehend and stomach that he is so suddenly gone, with no warning and no rhyme or reason. He was Wii bowling with his friends Thursday hours before the stroke... he was loving life and having fun and he knew how much he was loved by all of us. This is the last gift we can give to him, honor his wishes and let him go peacefully, no matter how hard it is and no matter how unready we were to say goodbye.
I feel such a great sense of loss and shock that he will no longer be there for family Sunday dinners, that his joyful demeanor and contagious laughs won't be present at holiday gatherings, that I won't get to play cards with him and playfully scold him when he tried to cheat. I will miss our Friday phone calls and I will miss his kind smile. I am still utterly gobsmacked that all of this has happened... he was the picture of health, 91 years old still living on his own, active, alert, no hints of ill health. And the next day he was, essentially, gone.
Thankfully I have an abundance of wonderful memories, I had the blessing of having him in my life for almost 31 years, I was able to form a unique and special relationship with him... and I secretly think I was his favorite (because he was totally mine!). I remember him letting me do his hair up with ribbons and curlers when I was little. I remember him putting me up on his 6'4" shoulders to take me out to the sandbars on Lake Winnebago. I remember him acting out his clue of "Madonna" one year at Christmas playing charades... that memory is priceless. Mostly, I remember a man who was dedicated to his family, madly in love with his wife, and the kind of fellow who no one could dislike if they tried. I remember his patience, his charm and his good nature. He was a gem, one of a kind, and I was blessed to call him my Grandfather for so, so many wonderful years.
I will miss you like no other Grandpa... you'll always be my favorite and I'll always love you! Go be with your Beloved Ethel and know that we will never, ever forget what a wonderful person you have been, what a kind and generous grandparent you were, and what a strong, loving, parent you were... we will never forget the times we shared and we will never forget you. You will always, always be missed.
Also, Thank You everyone for your kind thoughts, prayers and for those of you who reached out for the first time... you all have no idea how much your kindness has meant to my family and me.
NOTE: Please understand this was a very hard decision for our family and while you may not agree with us, I do not have any desire to hear those opinions, concerns or condemnations now, or ever. Please respect this decision our family has made as a whole and only comment if you have something positive or kind to say. Thanks.