My Son & Grief: Saying Goodbye to Grandpa

Late last week we lost my grandfather. My heart had been slowing breaking for the month before as I knew the end was inevitable. He turned 96 on Tuesday and on this day he entered the hospital.

I’m writing to tell this story from a parenting perspective though, so I’ll keep my sadness out of here, and focus on that of my child.

I didn’t tell my son Grandpa (his great Grandpa) went back into the hospital Tuesday as we had his first Raptors game that night with friends and I didn’t want to ruin it as he and his Grandpa were two peas in a pod. They were united and the love was of the purest form. I could write a novel on the things they did together and the memories they have. My grandpa always played with my son. On his level.  Heck he was on the floor wrestling with him at 94. They shared the love of wrestling together, the only reason my son was interested in it in the first place.

I could digress with hundreds of memories, but… I only actual got the text they were keeping him en route to the Raptors. So not telling him seemed right.

Wednesday we were unsure of what was to happen and I still held onto the wait and see approach. At that point he was getting his lung drained and going to get a pacemaker in a few days. That little false hope was there. So I waited to tell him. My Grandpa had previously spent 10 days in the hospital in November and although we visited my son’s anxiety was high the entire time. Same with when I told him he fell two weeks ago. It hurt my son’s heart quite evidently. I decided sheltering from the pain that was coming was best and dealing with it when he needed to.

Thursday was rough. Late afternoon we were told there was nothing they could do that would help. Pain management and comfort ahead. It could be days to a couple weeks. In my heart at that exact moment I knew the end was near. I was talking on the phone to my mom and not saying anything that my son could distinguish as related and my son looks at me, loud enough for my mom to hear on the other end and says “Tell me the truth”. So I told him Grandpa was back in the hospital. My mom wanted me to go Friday but I knew it had to be Thursday night.

Those words “Grandpa is back in the hospital” were enough. My son knew too. I didn’t say anything else. He had an emotional break down. He was angry, sad, and everything else. He didn’t want to talk. Didn’t want a hug. Crying uncontrollably. Wanted to be left alone. He was like this for 45 minutes. He then messaged me “I want to go see Grandpa” as he was still not ready to talk to anyone. My husband and I talked about it. Dad thought he should go, I was on the fence. My grandparents beliefs were hospitals and funerals were not places for children. They too hated funerals and like to remember people happy and not sickly or dying. I was torn. However in my heart it said if he is asking how do I say no?

So I messaged back asking him if this is what he wanted to do. He said yes and that he had piano first. So off we went to piano. His teacher said he did well there. He asked for Starbucks after to take with us to see Grandpa. I’m not going to lie if anything made his pain less, I was all for it.  I abstained but for him I got exactly what he wanted.

We then had to stop at a visitation for a friend. We didn’t have to have to, but it was something I had planned on doing that night before the chaos and was important for me to do so he came along. He had never been to one and I explained what is was and that we were there to just say we were sorry to the family for a loss. Rewind to before we got the call from my mom and he had just finished making his card for the friend and I was going to deliver it that night at the visitation. So he was already aware of me going to this too and had some idea, but was still intrigued by the funeral home and a little unsure of the many strangers we encountered there. You could tell he had been crying and a little agitated but he was a trooper.

So after really throwing life at him we head to the hospital. We were headed to Scarborough so it was a long crappy drive as the fog was thick. On that car ride he went through so many emotions. He wavered back and forth on his decision to see grandpa. I didn’t sugar coat it (I have a tendency with my positive thinking). I told him this would be the last time he saw Grandpa. He was sick, chills, super hot, tears, questions, anxiety. Almost every emotion came out in that car ride.

When we arrived at the hospital he couldn’t get out of the car fast enough. He was determined to get in there. Once in and trying to find our way to the room he asked to go to the bathroom. We went and he again cried his little heart out. I honestly thought at this point we would be saying goodbye and be out within 5 minutes. He was really beat up.

We met mom outside the ward doors and headed in to see Grandpa. He was a different kid. There were no tears. He was strong. He was apprehensive to touch Grandpa but he was not scared sitting at the foot of the bed watching him. He talked for an hour although my Grandpa was just peacefully sleeping. He told him he was going to be with Nanny, Sadie & Moe (his cats) and his Papa, the one he never met, Daddy’s Papa. He even mentioned the mom of the friend for the visitation we had just been at. He got it. Everything seemed to come together at this time. He was okay the circle of life was about to be completed.

Grandpa tried pulling his gown off several times unaware of where he waa or the like. My son said he was showing off his wrestling muscles and flexed to show his. I was strong. I didn’t break down. I needed to be like this little boy who held it all together. My mom was strong. 4 generations sat in this room and the littlest of them all held everyone together.

My son was ready to go about an hour later. I kissed my Grandpa goodbye and my son stood at the foot of the bed and stared at it and said goodbye. He knew it was the last time. He smiled at him.

When we get to the car he tells me how funny Grandpa looked with that mask and he would have thought so too. He tells me he was so happy to have seen Grandpa.

He had trouble sleeping that night but he kept it together. He went off to school Friday morning and I went to work knowing the end was coming. I should have stayed home after our late Thursday goodbye but the doctors said it could be a week or so. I was restless at work knowing the end was near. I left early and not twenty minutes after I left I got the phone call he was gone.

Thankful it went quickly and eternally grateful for that late Thursday night visit.

I told my son after school. “Grandpa went to see Nanny today”. “He died?” “Yes”. “He was meant to go to Nanny”. Those last words. How did this almost 10 yr old boy understand, get it and had already made peace? He was sad but when I asked him what he wanted to do, he wanted to stick with his usual plans. He went off to his usual Friday night tea and playdate and he understood.

We’ve talked about it lots this weekend. In fact I’ve got nothing left to sugarcoat. He wanted to help with the urn and although there will be no funeral, he will come to his first burial (of the urn) and family service in the spring. He didn’t attend my Nanny’s as no kids did. The cemetary is a warm place for him as he has gone every year of his life to lay flowers. Our whole family past of both my Grandpa and Nanny’s sides are there. He is ready.

Why am I sharing all this? Sometimes our kids are our pillars of strength. They give us more than we give them. I wasn’t ready nor had I dealt with death before my Nanny in a true heart wrenching form. Learning to do that at 34 years old was tough. This time I was better prepared but we did it together. He kept me together. Sometimes kids are more prepared than we are.

There have still been many tears and there will be more in the future. We will never be done grieving a big loss but that grief turns into smiles of happy memories. That grief turns into remembering how lucky we were to have our whole lives up to this point with one of the greatest men on this earth and who will live forever in our hearts.

I asked about death in a post and how people deal with it. The answers varied but after reading them they gave me confidence in the decision I made to let him go. Without him I would have sat there and cried and stayed the whole night waiting for it to happen, which may have been days, afraid to leave. Somehow though, the littlest of the generations in that room told us it was all okay. I think my Grandpa knew he would be okay by his presence.

I’m proud of my son. In a few short days he has taught me so much and his heart of gold is exactly like his great grandfathers. I couldn’t ask for much more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Site Created By That's So Social

Copyright © 2015. Mom Cafe Ontario