Wednesday I told my grandpa I loved him, and he struggled to put words together, but managed to say he loved me, too. Those are likely the last words I’ll ever hear him say. Today he is gaunt, twitching, unable to speak, and his breathing is raspy and rattling. His eyes open but he no longer looks at us.
I turned Lawrence Well music on for him (his favorite when I was a teen living with him, much to my disdain at the time), I check his back side for bed sores (all good, thankfully), and I tell him I love him several more times. My daughter is distraught that I won’t let her lie down on the bed with him the way she’s done ever since she could climb up there and chirp “Wake up, wake up Bapa!” He always loved it but now he winces when he’s touched and even when she makes loud noises. I hold her up to kiss his cheek and she kisses his hand and arm, too. “Bapa’s sick,” she says to me later, in bed. “He needs to go to the doctor and get a check-up.” I try to explain that Bapa is going away. She can’t play with him anymore. She can’t snuggle with him anymore. She just runs back to his bed and implores, “Bapa, get up! I have a balloon! Wanna play with me?”
Now I understand why some family members don’t want to stay with the patient. I thought it was denial and immaturity… Maybe even a bit of callousness. Now I find that I, too, don’t want to see someone I love this way. Dying. Fading out, not in a dignified manner at all, but in a slow and wilting way that seems messy and jerky and awkward. I just don’t want the images of my grandpa like this in my mind. It is a slow unfolding nightmare come to life. It is my first time watching death steal someone I love.