Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lessons Learned from a Dying Man

A little background:
My Grandfather and Grandmother were to peas in a pod, inseparable. They worked for many years as CES supervisors and my Grandma worked as his secretary. They served four missions abroad (South Dakots, New Guinea, Australia, and Tucson, AZ) and at least one, maybe two, close to home. My Grandma died very suddenly about 5 years ago when she had an aneurism burst in her abdomen. She was packing her bags to go on a girls trip with her daughters, she never made the trip. That was the day my Grandpa started dying.

Since then he has tried to keep himself busy with his animals, children, grandchildren. He has never been able to fill the hole in his heart left by his sweetheart. Every January he would come down to visit with his Great-grandchildren in Louisiana. He was a not only the guest but the STAR at our Family Home Evenings when he came to visit. Every January he also got a horrible cold.

The Story:
This January was no different. The cold came right on schedule. He had big plans to come visit us here in Louisiana. My Uncle took him to the doctor for the cold and the doctor did chest x-rays. The x-rays told the ugly truth that changed alot of plans. He would never make the trip to Louisiana. It was cancer, lung cancer, taking up half of his lung capacity, was not operable, 6 months to live. There were a great deal of mixed emotions. He was so happy to learn that it would not be long until he was reunited with his sweetheart. However, when he looked into the wet eyes of those he was leaving he could not help but cry for them.

Those grandkids who live far away decided to each take a turn and fly out to be with him for a few days while he was still feeling relatively well. My turn came four days after our trip the Disney. Eric valiantly took on the three kids, stomach virus and all! When I walked into his house I expected to see a dying man. Quite the opposite, I saw a man who was finishing living! We had a fun-filled few days. He informed me that he did not cook and McDonalds was providing most of his meals these days. We went in the morning to the "Old Boys Club". You see, my Grandfather lives in a small farming community in Northern Utah and the "Old Boys" of the town meet together at Burger King every morning to visit, swap stories and try to solve the world's issues amongst themselves. I was schooled in the ways of raising chickens, and learned that horses are all dark meat. Who knew? More importantly I was close with my Grandpa doing what he loved to do. We took daily naps and I had a chance to impress him by doing a pull-up! I cooked a big breakfast for him which he told me that no one did for him (except when my own Mom would come to visit him) since my Grandma died. On my last night there we watched a WWII documentary and I probably asked him 756 questions. He was willing to answer every single one. I learned more in those two hours than I had every learned in school about WWII.

I was leaving early in the morning so after our movie, he turned to me and let me know how much he appreciated and enjoyed our visit. We had mostly talked and let him rest alot, but not a moment was wasted. He told me he loved me and that I probably wouldn't see him again so this was "Goodbye". He was stalwart and I was a mess. There he was comforting the living while he was dying. He told me has nothing to fear on the other side and is at peace. He is sad to leave but excited to leave on this new adventure. He told me that he felt a little like he did when we would leave on a mission except that this time he would not be coming back. He didn't know what he would find but he knew it was the right thing and was excited for the adventure. I went in my room, called Eric and cried. I suspect that he went to his room and cried too. He admitted to me earlier in the week that he does that from time to time.

The entire trip gave me time to reflect on where I was and where I wanted to go. Am I going to be that peaceful when the time comes? Would I be ready to go now? What is important to me? Am I valuing those things or wasting time on things that don't matter? Am I really living or just being acted upon? Lessons learned from a dying man. I would not have traded those few days for all of the money in the world.

My cousin Reed invited us over for dinner one night. This is him with his ADORABLE little boy Peter (2) and Mastiff dog Miley. I wanted to sneak Peter into my suitcase and bring him home! Miley is only a few months old here! Mastiffs are the coolest dog on the planet!


Amy said...

Oh, thank you for sharing those wonderful memories. It brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful man and I'm so glad that you got to share that with him.

Amber and The Boys said...

Wow-that was such a touching blog post.

Shanda said...

Very touching Amy! I remember when my grandfather passed away. I was in the room with him. It was one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had. There were angles there to welcome him home, and I'm sure there are angles surrounding your family right now too.

Carla said...

Amy, how special to spend a few days one-on-one with your grandpa. He is a noble man and a terrific grandfather. I'm so glad all of you are going to visit with him one at a time. Very special...