As I type this I'm sitting in the Atlanta airport, on my way home from Albany. I have a great photo of my grandparents dancing at my wedding which I intend to attach to this blog entry. But that will have to wait b/c the free internet at the Atlanta airport doesn't seem to be agreeing with my ideas to upload the picture.
This weekend was very draining, mentally an physically. I went to Albany with the knowledge that it would be the last time I saw my grandfather. He had diabeties and over the last few years he's gone through a number of tough spots. There have been many times when we were told he might not make it through this surgery or that one. This time was different though, his liver and kidneys had failed and there was nothing that could be done. So I made the decision to head to Albany for the weekend.
When I arrived in Albany at lunch time Saturday we went directly to the hospital. My grandfather was happy to see me but told me, "I don't think I'm going to make it this time." He was fully aware of what was happening to him. My grandfather was an engineer at GE his entire career, and his mind continued to function in the same capacity until this weekend.
I had a good amount of time to sit with him over the weekend and to watch a relatively drastic transition from day to day. My Sunday he was fading, this was by far the most exhausting day of all. Everyone in the family was there to say goodbye and it was definetely tough. On Monday he was "sleeping" peacefully. Colin arrived via the work of Scott and Michael (thank you!) and he was able to talk to grandpa.
He passed away late last night. I was at the house packing for my trip home when it happened. My brother and mother picked me up and brought me back to the hospital to say goodbye. That was something I sure I will never forget.
I experienced a lot this weekend but I was lucky to have years to prepare for it. I made it almost 30 yrs before seeing a dead body or loosing someone close to me. I recall being very scared of the concept of death when we had to discuss it during 6th grade. That was a long time ago and I have obviously gained a lot of persepective since then.
My grandfather lived to be 77 and was surrounded by his family all weekend. Like all of us, he had his flaws as well as his characteristics that we looked up too. For me, the most impressive aspect of my grandfather has been what I've seen him do during the past couple of years. Last summer I visited him at the hospital when I went to do IMLP. He had just recieved a trans-femoral amputation on his right leg. I read papers on the subject and knew of the few people who ever manage to gain the ability to walk 200m with their prosthesis. My grandfather knew this too but didn't seem to care. He built himself a training space in the basement to practice walking and went down there every morning to work on it. The effort to practice and his determination to keep pushing himself as long and hard as he could was impressive.
He was a stubborn Irishman who didn't want to be told what to do. That made him hard to deal with at times but it also made him stronger than many others.
I'm glad for the oportunity that I had this weekend. Being given the opportunity to say goodbye is something we won't always get. If you have that chance, don't let it pass by.