Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bye, Baby

It's been a hard month.

You know they say that there is one thing that all cancer stories have in common... all stories really...

Everyone has a 'last good day'.  The problem is, you don't know it when it's here.

Shortly after I found out I was pregnant this time, I also got the news that my Grandpa was given 6-12 months to live.  They found colon cancer, just like what took Uncle Dale from us and it had spread already.  He had been in the hospital at Christmas (around the same time Papa was dying) because his heart was weak and they found a mass in his colon.  Shortly after, they saw it was in his lymph nodes.

I went over to see him that April afternoon and walked in to find him sitting in his favorite chair.  He greeted me with his usual "Hello, bewtiful" with his slight accent.  I walked over, fell to my knees and gave him the biggest, strongest hug I think I've ever given him short of when Uncle Dale died 5 years ago.  As I let go he asked me a question I never expected.  He asked "Are you mad?"  I didn't know I was until I answered "I'm pissed."  and we laughed together... because that is what you did with my Grandpa, you always laughed with him.

He sat in the chair for a few minutes and then moved to the couch where he tried to lay down while still making me feel like he wanted me there.  As he struggled to get comfortable, he said "So, what's new with you baby?"

"What's new with me??" I almost didn't even feel right answering that question with the news he was just given... me?  who cares about me??....  he did.  So, I thought for a second... what could I even say that wouldn't feel completely ridiculous to say at a time like this?  And so although I hadn't told many people yet, including most of our family, I told him..."Well, I'm pregnant." and smiled as I waited for his response.

"Are you really?" he asked with an excited voice and a huge smile.  "Do you know what you are having yet?"  I said no, it's too early and he said "Well, I hope it's a big fat girl."  "Me too" I said, "But it's probably another BOY!" and we laughed some more.

My Grandpa is one of 13 - and only 2 of them are girls.  Both the girls died at young ages, 1 and 3 in the same year from the influenza and so his mom was left with a huge bunch of really cute, crazy Italian boys to chase after.  She had come over on the boat from Italy and didn't speak a word of English.  I look at pictures of her with the boys and am in awe of her, black mustache and all.

Within a few minutes, he started to apologize saying he really needed to lay down.  His head was feeling dizzy and he couldn't hang out anymore.  I helped him to his bed, gave him a hug and kiss and said I'd be praying and he looked up and said "Bye, baby" as he always did when I left and then added "Good luck with your baby."

I felt it, like it was the last good day... it sounded like he was saying goodbye... like he knew he would never meet this baby... but I didn't want to believe it.  I left counting out months and thinking it's still possible he'll meet this baby... I just want him to meet this baby....

As the days past, we watched him go down quicker than we ever saw coming.  His head was spinning all the time and I never saw him sit up comfortably again.  That moment when I walked in to see him in his chair will always be in my mind.... He loved his chair...  but I never saw him in it again.  Eventually, the doctor said the cancer had likely gone to his brain, causing the spinning and headaches.  And the rest of the next 6 weeks was torture for him.

He was in excruciating pain and needed more care than he was getting at home, but he didn't want to leave his cats... and the more he hurt and the more he endured all alone, I realized I couldn't wish another day on him... no matter how much I wanted him to meet this baby.  This is a man who had been through the Korean War... and every time I saw him, he said over and over "I've never felt this horrible in my entire life."

On top of all of these emotions, I managed to pick up yet another stomach bug and was violently ill for 10 days.  I was at home, held up on my couch.  I lost 4 pounds because I couldn't keep anything in and ended up in the hospital for fluids and nausea medicine in hopes of just a minute of relief.  The days went by and I worried about him... worried I might miss his last good day, not realizing it had already come and gone.

And then I got the message... he was now 'actively dying'.  6-12 months had turned into 2.

Have you ever watched someone 'actively die"?  Because unless you are there for those last 2-3 days, hearing someone died is just that - hearing.  I have heard all sorts of people have died.  Even heard stories of close friends being with parents as they actively died... but until you watch someone actively die, it's not anything you can fathom.  Even with Rachel it was different because her body and mind weren't fighting for another day.  And in just 6 short months, my family sat by two of our most loved family members, my Papa and Grandpa, and watched them die... watched cancer eat them from the inside out and much before they were truly ready to go.

So on Wednesday, June 24, I went over to see him... He was in a hospital bed in the living room... placed in the same place that Uncle Dale's was less than 5 years earlier.  I sat in the chair next to him and heard him call me "Bewtiful" for the last time.  Except this time, he prefaced it with "Goodbye" instead of "Hello".  I am so thankful for those moments because I got to tell him how much I love him, how thankful I am for him, and how much I am going to miss him.  He looked up when I was done and said "Why won't you let me go...?"  I said "I will, you can go any time you want to, you have been through enough.  You are the bravest man I know." He asked if I wanted to go with him and I said I would love to...  He sat up.  I asked where he was going because he wasn't supposed to get out of bed and he said "I'm just sitting up to kiss you goodbye."  I hugged him, he kissed my forehead and said "Bye, baby." and laid back down.

And the rest was a slow nightmare to what I hope is heaven for him, but won't truly know until I get there.  Sometimes I hate being aware of the fact that not everybody goes to this "better place" that even people who don't believe in Jesus somehow know exists.  The scary part is that it's as if they don't also believe that hell exists and it does.  Everyone's souls live on forever when we leave this earth - but not all go to heaven... some go to hell.  Having people I love so against Jesus makes death so freaking heavy for me I can't even put words to it.  Sometimes so much so that I hate knowing the truth.  I find hope in this only in knowing that God can work out whatever He pleases in a soul before someone dies and that anyone predestined to spend eternity in heaven with him, will, regardless of what we think they believed here on earth.  We never know what happens between God and a person in those last days. (if they get those last days)   I will say that 3 times in that last 24 hours, I heard my Grandpa call out for Jesus to come get him.  I can't imagine he would do that if he didn't believe in Him.  But it sure would be nice to know for sure...  I also know that there are many who claim they believe, who sit in church every week lying to themselves,  who will stand before Jesus when they die and the Bible says He will say "I never knew you."   You can't fool God.  In the end, He knows all.  Unfortunately, going to heaven has nothing to do with being a good person.  All I can say to all of this is please make sure you are right with God and have a true, living relationship with Jesus Christ.  You never know when your last good day will be.

He died that Friday... just like Papa... just like Rachel... a hard Friday.

The day of his funeral it stormed.  And that evening, the sky was full of rainbows.  Amazing double rainbows like I've never seen.  My Facebook page was being covered with them as people saw them and thought of Rachel.  And suddenly, just like that - in the middle of horrible pain, I was given a symbol of hope.  And while I never base my beliefs on feelings, because feelings so often fail us, I have to say that I will always feel like the double rainbows were God letting me know that two of my loves had found each other and were dancing together with the angels.

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