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Life Support is about More than Machines.

December 20, 2010

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably already heard. The past 4 days have been tough on my family. And although you may have heard bits, I did want to share the story because it means a lot to me. It’s deeply personal, so if you’re looking for a refined post about life being easy, you may want to skip this post. This one is about family, and it’s not the happiest of stories that I’ve ever told. But in some ways, it is one of the most peaceful ones.

Last month my grandfather was on life support. And I don’t mean just by machines. There were many things supporting his life. Machines. Doctors. Friends. Sons. Grandchildren. Brothers. Wife. But perhaps most strongly, himself.

The last month, things happened rapidly and my grandfather went from being at home and getting around on his own to being in Intensive Care in the hospital. And, then one month later, he was laying on life support. There, supported by a ventilator in the VA Hospital, the doctors said that he didn’t have a chance of coming off of it.

But we knew him and we didn’t exactly believe it. So, instead, my dad spent the whole week pretty much alone with him, holding his hand the whole time, encouraging him that he could get stronger and he could come off life support. Eventually, there in ICU the family had to make a hard choice, but we chose to take him off the ventilator because we didn’t feel like it was right to make him suffer any longer. When it was removed, it was by miracle that he stabilized on his own. And he eventually was able to speak again. During that last week he tried calling my grandmother and telling her that he loved her so much. We were present as he tried talking to her. We could hear him in the room and we could read his lips, but his voice just didn’t transfer over the phone to her. We told her what he was saying, but I just don’t think it was good enough for him.

It was over the next few days that something even more miraculous happened. The doctors determined that he was stable and could be transferred back to rehab at the nursing home. Once there he was well enough to get in a wheelchair so that my dad could take him to see my grandmother. He spent a few hours talking with her and telling her that he loved her from the bottom of his heart there in person in her room in the nursing home. There face-to-face again. Holding hands. The boy scouts brought in two little stuffed animal puppies, and my papa and granny talked about how one was my grandmother and the other my grandfather. How they’d been married 63 years now, and how they would be together forever. My grandfather just laughed and smiled.

After telling her that and talking with her for a while, my grandfather was wheeled back down to his room (in that same building). My father was able to tell him that he loved him before my dad left. Shortly after my dad left his room and headed home, my grandfather went into cardiac arrest and he passed away. I know that it was because he was holding on until he had completed what he needed to do. At that point, it was complete and he could go in peace. It is for this reason that I am at peace, no matter how sad it is. And I am still very sad about it, but I know that everything is okay.

Now, I sit here with my grandmother (his wife) and she can’t catch her breath because she is so upset. She is telling me that love is all that has carried her through the past 63 years, and even though now he’s gone, her love is still present. She tells me that they were never the “church type”, but that she knows the Lord is with her because He allowed them a miracle of seeing each other one last time before he passed. Her lips shake and you can tell she is worried about everything. I’ve always felt like I was just like her.

It’s hard. Our family is super close. But I think she’s right. God is truly good and He gives us what we need. He gives us strength and miracles when they are right. This is one of those things that is so hard. But it was right. My grandfather was 89 years old and lived a long, eventful life. I can’t think of a more peaceful way for it come to a close. He will be remembered as a strong man of strict discipline that worked his way for his family especially as a merchant marine that crossed the equator dozens of times in wars (and has a certificate, purple heart and bald head to prove each one). His bald head came from a war accident that pretty much scalped him and made him unable to grow hair on the top of his head. But mostly we’ll remember him as the “Chief Bald Eagle”, the first member of our family to make it to YouTube* as a wrestler, referee and promoter of wrestling all across America. He now has a spot in the Wrestling Hall of Fame for his contributions in the “wrastlin” field.

This time stirs up emotions that I have honestly never felt before. But it reminds me that I am so thankful for the memories I have with him. And how amazing my family is. This has been one heck of a week. But I have one heck of a family.

*YouTube video shows my grandfather as the referee and my uncle as one of the wrestlers.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2010 5:49 am

    I’m really sorry to hear this. Your grandfather is in my thoughts and prayers along with you and your family.

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