This has been a very long week...already. And it's only Tuesday. Wow...what will the rest of the week bring?
Yesterday we moved Grampie back home from the skilled nursing/rehab center where he's been living since he broke his hip on September 10. The process of getting him home has been a full-time job for Beve and Thyrza's daughter (long-distance from Maryland) for the last week, while various agencies, therapists, facilities 'discussed' the best placement for Grampie. We've found it unsettling that most of their concern has not taken into account the most important component of Grampie's life--his relationship with his wife. They've looked his medical status, his cognitive and physical abilities but haven't noticed that any living situation that includes the separation of this happily married and definitely-dependent-on-each-other couple would be deadly to both. So the adult children had to fight for their parents--and did a fine job of it, I must say.
So we got him finally moved home, his living space decluttered enough for the wheelchair he'll be confined in for the remainder of his life, the aides in place...It took us the whole day for the job, but he settled in nicely, was very glad to be home, all smiles and full of the graciousness that epitomizes his life. By the time Beve got home, spoke a couple of words to E (who'd had a long, difficult day of her own), he was ready to crash so he could face today and the trenches of his school job.
My marching orders for this morning were to go over, check on how Grampie's night went, fill his weekly pill container, take over some laundry. I got there about 11:15. Knocked on the door. No answer. Walked in to see Grampie sitting in his wheelchair near the breakfast bar, asleep. Thyrza was in the bathroom. I called to Grampie, which always awakens him. He knows my voice. But he didn't wake up this morning. I walked over, saw that he was drooling, spoke more loudly at him and he still didn't answer. I dropped my bags, shook him and he still didn't move. My heart began pounding. Oh no. Was this it? Was this actually it? I felt his hands. Cool to the touch. His face, warm. His chest, still moving. I didn't check for a pulse, because I have never been able to find one on anyone. But he was still breathing. Thyrza came out of the bathroom. She yelled at him. We pressed the call button and I called Beve, who instantly said he was coming. Thyrza called the desk and said, "He's drooling from his mouth and nose, and someone should come and look at him." Yes, I thought, but those are the secondary issues.
I was slow in deciding about calling 911, because Grampie has been very clear that he doesn't want any extra-ordinary measures. What was right? Really, what would he want? What did God want? But Thyrza was insistent so she called. And very soon the apartment was filled with men and equipment and questions were being asked, and it was very fortunate I'd been there because I could answer them all.
And then Beve walked in, and we all--and I mean even the paramedics--stopped for about 20 seconds to breath a deep sigh when we saw him. Turned and asked him a question only he could answer about Grampie's advanced directive, then they were on their way.
And we spent another long day at the hospital, where Grampie remains tonight. But he came out of whatever that was as quickly as it had come on. A couple of hours later, he was more lucid than he's seemed in months. Perhaps it was the extra oxygen they were giving him. But it was sure nice to be with him, for all that the day dragged and the chairs were hard and we were starving. He's wearing a purple identification bracelet, which is the hospital's way of identifying him as a 'do not resuscitate.'
Tonight we're tired again. Today was not 'It' for Grampie. Not his last day. I didn't walk in to his dying moments, though it surely, surely seemed that way. When we talked about it this afternoon and I told him I'd thought he was dying, he said, "Well, it's going to happen one of these days." He shrugged his shoulders (covered under about 5 warm hospital blankets) and said, "Sorry I scared you, but I worry about this one," and he nodded toward Thyrza. Better me than her to find him, he was saying.
Maybe. But it wasn't a calling I wanted this--or any--day. And it makes me wonder why there was such a pounding fear in facing it. Why the adrenalin was racing, even as my spirit was praying that God's will be done and that I do what was best for Grampie.
Some people are clear about God's will at such moments. I am not. I know death will come for Grampie. I love him deeply, but I know the day of his home-going is in the not-too-distant future. And I also know that will be a day of rejoicing on the other side of the veil. His life has been well-lived, and these last days here much diminished. Just the other day, Beve and I were looking at pictures of Beve's parents' wedding day. Grampie was tall and straight and handsome and full of life that day. Breath-taking were the two of them in their stately elegance. When I imagine him in heaven, when he's taken off this broken down body, I imagine him like that.
It's what I imagine for each of us who love him. Each of us on our best day. That's what we'll look like when we see Him face to face.