My grandfather is not responding to the treatments for pneumonia. They are keeping him in the hospital in order to stabilize him enough to be moved. Moved into hospice. To make him as comfortable as possible. That's all there is left to do. My father and brother's are headed for North Carolina tomorrow morning to see him, and also for my Dad to meet with his sisters in order to discuss the future. I can't go. I don't think I can take it. I thought about it, but it is painfully obvious that I am not in the position to make the trip. It was painful seeing him the way he was just last weekend when I was in NC. And he was not nearly as bad as he is now. I remember trying to keep it together until he was able to vocalize what he needed me to do for him. One night, he'd walked from the dining table to the island in the kitchen. Only 5 feet. When he got to the island, he could barely breathe. He said "Courtney, I need you to go into my room..." and then he had to stop. He'd said that first part of the sentence so slowly, and was already unable to speak. He had to concentrate on getting the air that he needed. A few minutes later he managed to say "it's so scary to not be able to breathe. Poor TJ." I felt my breath hitch in my chest. I tried to take breaths myself as he continued to tell me what pills he needed. As soon as he finished the sentence, I turned towards the hall and began to cry as silently as possible. I love my Grandfather. He's been a force and presence in my life since I was born. And he has never wavered from that post. As much as I want to be with him now, as much as I want to help him in any way that I can, I can't imagine seeing him in a hospital bed. I can't imagine all of the beeps, and compressions of air coming through the tubes. I haven't been in a hospital since TJ went in and never walked out. As blessed as I was to be with TJ in his final moments, the images and sounds haunt me daily. As wonderful as it was to hear him tell me that he loved me, and that I was able to return the sentiment of love, I wish I could erase all of the fear I saw in his face when he looked at me. I wish I could forget how he looked while they performed CPR. I wish I could forget the sounds he made when he gasped for the air he so desperately needed. Having been through those experiences, I feel extremely fragile. The choice is obvious to me, yet I still fight it. I love my Grandpa.
Because of the choice that I have made, I'd resolved to make sure he knew even a fraction of the things I wished to share with him. So I have written a letter that I will send with my dad and brother's to be delivered to my Grandpa in that North Carolina hospital. And I share it with you now. Please keep him and our family in your prayers.
To my loving Grandpa,
I'm sorry that I am not with you now, but I am glad to have such wonderful carriers who can bring this letter to you. Grandpa, I love you more than words could ever permit me to express. Do you remember when you used to tell me that I was your favorite granddaughter? And I would always giggle, or roll my eyes, and reply "but Grandpa, I'm your ONLY granddaughter!" I always loved that exchange. I know we had to discontinue it when Olivia came along because it was no longer true. Because you love us all so equally. Growing up under your influence has been immeasurable in it's benefits. I will never look at my coffee while I'm walking. I will never stand on my breaks when my car starts to skid on the road. I will always leave the correct car lengths between me and the driver ahead of me on the road. I will never loan money to a friend, because they're the first ones to take advantage. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for cokes and gingerale and Judge Judy. I remember spending the night at your house and being so excited to have white bread with spray parkay butter, and a gingerale to wash it down. All of the things I didn't have at home. Soda, white bread, and butter that sprayed. It was so much fun to squirt it. It was as if you gave me permission to play with my food. I remember when I would get sick. You would always come over to visit when I was sick. And sometimes you'd even come over with a McDonald's cheeseburger and a chocolate shake. No matter how sick I felt, I enjoyed them because they were a treat from you. You have always taken such good care of all of us. I can't even begin to recall all the fantastic memories of my childhood. But every thought of you makes my heart sing. My life is filled with moments with you. Your charm is insanity. I've seen how you can win over any young lady just by talking to her. You're smooth, Grandpa. Yet always a gentleman. You can get anyone you speak with to crack a smile and loosen their grip on life. You are as tough as nails, yet as loving and sweet as a lamb. You can build a house with your bare hands, and you can speak with a soft caressing voice to sooth your grandchildren when they fall and scrape their knees. To call your son "Pal". To always tell us that you love us, and to "be careful". I remember recently, over the phone, you said that you loved me before I had a chance to say it to you. You actually burst out with a "HA!" after you said "I love you" and then said "I said it first this time!" I could hear the smile in your voice through the phone. Triumphant.
Your care and concern for those you love runs deeper than any of us may know. But we feel it. It overflows from you. TJ's death was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I couldn't wait to seek comfort in your strong and loving presence. And I found that comfort. You came in through the back door and came straight to me. The only other time I'd seen you cry was at your mother's funeral. It was shocking then, as it was on March 4th, 2011. You kept saying "TJ was our 5th grandchild". You loved and accepted him as your own, and you have no idea how deeply that touches me. I know how sad you were, and still are, about his death. And also what will become of me through all of this. You call to check on me often, just to see how I am doing. How I am coping. I feel so lucky. I forget that not everyone is as fortunate as I am to have such loving and supportive men in my life. You and Dad are my rocks. You're always there when I need you. And even when I don't. I can't even begin to count all of the battles you have fought for me. Always researching things for me; shopping around for repair prices, fighting with insurance companies when that cab hit me on Patrick Street, negotiating charges on my Verizon bill when I'd just gotten out of college. The list could go on and on.
Out of all of the many lessons you have taught me, out of all of the many examples you've shown me, there are always three things: love, strength, and honesty. You've taught me to fight for myself. To do what is right and good. And to love as deeply as possible. You have taught me to remind the ones close that you love them. I know I don't have to tell you how much I love you, Grandpa. But I'm doing it anyway.
Please lay back, relax, and rest. Let those who love you take care of you now, just as you took care of us for many many years. It is our honor and pleasure to help you in any way we can. Let us, as a family, return the favor.
I love you forever and for always.
Your Devoted Granddaughter,