Sunday, October 9, 2011

Today I held life and death in my arms.I want it to make it count.

From the moment I woke up this morning the idea that I need to make every breath I take and every moment of my life mean something was in my head and heart. Even in through the night my dreams were filled with images of new beginnings and overwhelming joy.
Though I had very little sleep I was excited about teaching my Sunday School class and being a part of worship after being sick last week and in nursery the week before. Worship was amazing. The music spoke to me once again about the wonderful mercy and grace of my Savior. The message reminded me to examine the motivation of my life.
After church we were headed to my mother and grandparents for a visit. I was anxious, as though I were running late. In actuality we were actually earlier than we had planned. But in a way I feel I was running late.
You see, my grandfather is losing his battle with lung cancer. I visited him a few weeks ago but due to being sick, first with bronchitis/hyperactive airway disease then with an attack of diverticulitis I haven't been able to visit as much as I wanted. From speaking with my mother daily I knew he was not doing well. He isn't eating much, isn't sleeping much and is in a lot of pain. I must admit I was not prepared as I thought I was.
I am sure Grandpa was a man of average height. No one in our family is very tall. But to me he always seemed ten foot tall and bulletproof.
Maybe it was the stories he told us of his many crazy, dangerous adventures that he should not have survived. Starting with the cold February day of his birth. He was a scrawny pitiful baby, born at home, as all of the brothers and sisters were. To keep him alive and warm they wrapped him in blankets and put him in the oven.
Or the time when he was working on the railroad in California when a bum beat him unconscious and left him on the tracks for dead. All because Grandpa wouldn't give the bum his lunch. Or the multiple heart attacks the earned him a medical discharge from the Navy before he was 30.
And the funny stories. Oh the stories he would tell us! I think my favorite is the one I call "The Ladies, the Lizards and the Streaker." Grandpa met Grandma while he was in the Navy in California. Not near the ocean as you would expect, but in the Mojave Desert. My mom and uncles loved to catch lizards, which my grandfather hated. One day after working a night shift, grandpa was sleeping, in his underwear, while grandma entertained a few ladies while the kids caught lizards. Can you see where this is going?  Yeah, the kids brought the lizards in the house. Somehow the lizards ended up in Grandpa's bedroom whereupon grandpa streaked through the living room in his tidy whities. I drew a picture of it for school once, I am not sure what mortified grandma more. The Victorian garb I had her and the other ladies in or my rendition of grandpa with the lizard right behind him.
Grandpa was also a big softy. I was the first of the grandchildren. There are 4 girls and 2 boys in almost a stair-step fashion age wise. Soon after we were able to express liking or wanting something, grandma stopped letting grandpa carry money because he would spend it on us instead of whatever he was supposed to spend it on. We knew, without question, Grandpa would always love us and push all the limits to help us.
My children were blessed to know that love as well.
As I followed Grandpa down the hall today to help him into bed that even though I am only 5 foot tall, I am now taller him. As I adjusted his oxygen, turned on his fan and covered him up I thought of the many times he had tucked me in. He squeezed my hand when I told him I loved him. I knew, however, that I couldn't cry in front of him. He had already apologized for not being able to sit and visit.
I ate with my family and we left my grandparents to rest. My mother, husband, uncle, daughter and I sat in porch swings and chairs looking out at the field making small talk interspersed with short discussions about Grandpa's impending death.
I was able to hold back the tears as my mother told me that she would not allow my siblings and I to go through this with her. She says that at the first sign of a debilitating disease she is checking herself into a nursing home. She wants us to visit but she does not want us as her primary caregiver.
We needed to head home. We stopped at my grandparents to say goodbye. Grandpa was in the recliner trying to stay awake, each breath clearly a struggle. He had left his glasses in his room so I got them and helped put them comfortably on his face,carefully so as to avoid the sores on his ear from laying on it and the oxygen tubing.
Finally, it was time to hug him goodbye. I kissed him on the forehead and told him I loved him.
" I.....love....you........too." He said. I wanted to run when I realized he did not say "Come back and see me when you can stay longer." like he ALWAYS said. But my husband was blocking my path. I am not sure, now, if I hugged Grandma.I could not stop the tears as I walked quickly to the drivers side and got in. Gregg asked if I wanted him to drive and I said I was fine. I couldn't shake the feeling that I had heard my grandpa's voice for the last time. About a half a mile down the road I had to pull over and admit I couldn't drive home.
During the 30 minute drive I thought about all the things Grandpa taught me. Things I want to teach my grandchildren and great nieces. About putting others first, about standing up for what is right, about how family is always first. About the legacy he and grandma have created in 65 years of marriage. I wondered if he had done everything he wanted to do in his life or if he let fear hold him back. As hard as I tried I couldn't stop crying.
Even when we reached our home, I couldn't stop crying. I sat on the couch with my husband and cried some more.
Finally I asked, "Can we go see the baby?"  The baby is my 2 week old great niece. Ceara has had a rather dramatic introduction to the world which her parents have graciously allowed me to be a part of. They have even allowed me to be her "Mymy".
Gregg of course agreed and soon Caera was in my arms. As her tiny form rested on my chest and lowered my blood pressure. I couldn't help but think of the contrast between the end of my grandfathers life and the beginning of Ceara's. I thought of all she has to look forward too and all the choices she would have to make. I thought about the influence I have the potential to have in her life. With all that is with in me I want that influence to be a positive one. I want her to be proud and glad she knew me.
In fact, I'd like everyone I come in contact with to have be able to say " a pleasure meeting you" and really mean it. But the fact remains that I am not superwoman, I am not even remotely close to perfect. and as much as I may want to be and try to be, I will fail. I am human. I will completely lose it at some point or another. All I will ever be able to do is sincerely apologize when I do wrong and ask God to help me do better next time.
I hope this blog makes up for the lack of blogs over recent months.