(Grandpa's Last Birthday, in December)
It was something that was expected, but at the same time, not. My grandpa was diagnosed with Parkinson's many years ago. He's been shaking quite a bit, and in the last couple of months he started with head shaking. I know that's a bad sign, unfortunately. He was feeling bad and losing energy - we knew he was fading. But at the same time, two weeks before he died he was in South Carolina - visiting his brother and getting along better than most others. We thought that, while he was having some bad days, that the good days were still outnumbering them.
Last Thursday (almost two weeks ago now), he was lying down doing his morning stretches on the floor. He couldn't get up. My step-grandma wanted to call 911, but he refused. So my step-grandma did the next best thing - she called my dad, who drives right by their house on his way to work. When my dad tried to lift him, my grandpa went into cardiac arrest.
Apparently, his losing energy was red blood cells dying off - he was losing oxygen rapidly. Even if they had called 911, the same thing probably would have happened (which made my step-grandma feel a lot better). They stabilized him in the hospital, but opted to wait for the weekend for any non-immediate tests. On Monday, nothing had changed. They opted for a brain scan. They quickly found out that grandpa wasn't having any brain activity, and after being without a heartbeat for 15 minutes, it most likely wasn't going to come back. When my mom called to tell me they were taking him off life support - it was crushing. I had my meltdown, cry in Sean's arms moment. And the next day...
He was snoring. Without life support. I had never heard of someone not immediately passing away when taken off life support, but apparently it happens. Grandpa finally passed on Wednesday afternoon - a blessing which meant that the wake had to be pushed to Sunday and my cousins wouldn't miss their First Communion. We had the wake, funeral, and burial on Sunday and Monday, and it's nice for closure.
Anyway. My grandpa was the first of the mad men generation. He did a lot of things (really, check out this link - it's his obit) - with the church, the community, and work. He helped fight the Lambert Airport Expansion, he fought for new parks, he was a math teacher, he worked at McDonnell Douglas, he was on parade floats, and he was a city councilman. But for me, he was grandpa. He's the one who I cleaned the city pool with (that he managed) and the one who took me to the park. He let my brother draw on the couch in a sharpie. He delivered meals on wheels with me. He gave me Coke for breakfast. He was also my last biological grandparent - it's weird that I don't have any left. And kind of makes me feel doomed in a way.
The entire turn out was amazing though. There was SO many people his wake - former students, my grandma's family (she died 17 years ago), neighbors, the mayor - it was crazy. There was literally a line out the door. I'm so thankful that so many people came - most of them didn't know me, but it was great to see all of the people who respected him. It was great that they got to meet who he left behind - me, and my stepgrandma, and my cousins (down to age 3, who were all there).
Wakes and funerals? They truly are for the living. And truly healing.