1.31.2012

Plucked From The Healthy World Together

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats" by Jan-Philipp Sendker. The book inspired this post.

"There was the world of the sick and dying and the world of the hale. The healthy and hale did not want to know anything about the sick and the dying. As if they had nothing to do with one another. As if one false step on thin ice, one forgotten candle, were not enough to pluck you from the one world and land you in the other."
-Excerpt from "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats' by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Eleven years ago my grandmother died of cancer. It was rather aggressive and fast. She was in her early 70's and we all felt robbed and heartbroken to witness what we knew were her final days. I'm the oldest of sixteen cousins, so always felt lucky that I had the most time with her and would most likely have the best memories, but it still felt terrible to lose her.

As the cancer was taking over and it was clear her days were numbered, my grandfather had a massive stroke. The kind of stroke you aren't supposed to survive. They were in bed sleeping and my grandmother was in too much pain, too weak to quickly get to the phone. It must have been an incredible struggle for her to call for help. That was the last day that Grandma was really lucid and she was admitted to the hospital for hospice care immediately.

Grandma & Grandpa on their wedding day.
Grandpa was in bad shape in the ICU of another hospital. As we upped Grandma's morphine to keep her comfortable, we willed Grandpa to hang in there. Family went from one hospital to the other. Grandma's time was limited, but Grandpa needed to say good bye. Our family and the hospitals managed to allow them a final moment together. Grandpa was transported on a stretcher by ambulance to her hospital. They wheeled him in as she lay unconscious in her bed. He couldn't speak well and his left side was paralyzed. But, we all believe that they were able to say good bye.

She died soon after and my Grandpa was transported to the funeral via ambulance a few days later, able to sit up in a wheelchair. It was heartbreaking. It was tragic. People wandered around the funeral, looking at us with pity. My grandparents were healthy. They were high school sweethearts. It was not their time.

Luckily they created a family that survives through humor, so we found a way to laugh about it. The absurdity of it all. We created humor where most would have found none and ways to make sense of it instead of just crying our eyes out. It was decided that Grandpa never could have survived life without Grandma if he was capable and healthy. They had to cross from the healthy world together.

Today my Grandpa is still alive, trapped in a body terribly damaged by his stroke and in need of round-the-clock nursing care. He married a lovely woman he met in the nursing home, who is a considerate and watchful companion and lost her husband around the same time Grandma died. He found another person to love for the rest of the time he's with us, but he has a plot waiting for him right next to Grandma.


When Julia travels to Burma to search for her missing lawyer father, she discovers much more than she expected. Join From Left to Write on February 1 as we discuss The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

5 comments:

Neena said...

This post is so bittersweet - and reminds me of the love my grandparents shared. Beautiful!

Nicki said...

That's love. I'm so touched by this. Just...beautiful.

Christina said...

Wow. This post really brings me back. Humor was the only way to get through that time. Great tribute to grandma and grandpa.

dbaum said...

LOVE this!

Michelle said...

I almost cried reading this - what a heartbreaking moment for your family. I love that picture of them together. They look so happy and alive and vibrant. And beautiful! What a wonderful tribute to this book. And how wonderful for your grandfather to have found someone to keep him happy now.