Grandpa died the day after Valentine’s Day, at 9:10 a.m. on a sunny morning. He just stopped breathing and went peacefully where he belonged. Cancer had taken him over.
He was never a grumpy person; he was always laughing, telling jokes, and playing tricks on everybody. When I used to comb his hair and touch face, he never told me he loved me — he never had to because I knew.
He was raised to be a strong man, no crying or excessive shows of affection were allowed, so my entire life the way I knew he loved me were the little things he did, like buying me ice cream, giving me money to buy a toy, patting me in the back and making jokes.
It’s so stunning how life can change in a minute. Grandpa was right there talking to me and laughing, and three weeks later he was gone. He will be missed by all of us in the family, not just me. I have trouble talking about death because this is my first major loss. I will never forget the moment I saw him leave this life. He was strong and his passing was peaceful. I’m not sad anymore; I just miss him.
Standing in front of his grave a few days after he died made me think hard about life and how much it can change so quickly, and how much it has changed for me in the past year. Losing someone you love is like choking on a piece of glass, it cuts in your mouth and cuts even more when you swallow.
Lessons of death. Lessons of love.
Why do I share my sad news and lessons with you? It’s because I have shared some of my difficult life changes with readers during the past year and have received many kind messages in response. This is another lessons about life that I want to share with you: the importance our friends.
Do you believe in a higher force? I believe in God and as any other dumb human being, I have questioned Him so many times and Grandpa dying was not the exception, of course. He was in the hospital for almost a month and I was there with him almost every day until one night when I was looking at him sleeping when suddenly he opened his eyes, he looked up to the roof and pointed out with his finger and I said “What Grandpa? What is it?” He couldn’t speak but he went back to sleep. I have this concept that when you are about to die someone comes and pick you up, maybe it was the bus to heaven, I hope it was for grandpa but that night I went home and I thought about why God had him like that. Why hasn’t He taken grandpa yet? Why? I’m sure that, at some point, I even complain about it but days later when he passed away and I was there I thought about how lucky I was that I was able to share his last days, that I could laugh with him one more time, that I hold his hand until he stopped breathing. I was grateful to God for giving me time to accept the fact that Grandpa was going to die. I’m not talking about religion here, I’m talking about a lesson to learn and the time I was giving for that so if you are in any way questioning something in your life, maybe you are being thought a lesson, try to learn it.
Grandpa had his good moments in those last days. He told my Grandma that he didn’t want to be cremated and wanted to be buried quickly, with only the family in attendance. Grandma got very emotional and hugged Grandpa, gave him a kiss and asked him, “What am I going to do without you?” For all my life I thought they couldn’t stand each other.
I had always thought that they had gotten married because they “had to,” but in that moment I understood that she had loved him for 67 years. She showed her love by cooking for him every day, reminding him to take a shower and his insulin, and suggesting what shirt he should wear. His entire life was organized and managed by Grandma and she was the only one who truly knew and understood him. Even their trips to the market, were a sign of love. The love they shared was made up of little but important things like that; he needed her and she needed him. Grandpa and Grandma shared a love that no one understood. Loving someone can be challenging, but once you have the true feeling of “home,” which is often made up of little things, you know you have found the one you were meant to be with.
After he was gone, I have thought many times of the things I wanted to talk to him about the hard times I was going through. But I was ashamed. I didn’t want him to be disappointed in me, I wanted him to be proud. I never know if he knew that I didn’t have a husband and that I am single mom. I wish he could know that and that I am happy now, that life isn’t so hard anymore, and that the miracle I’ve been waiting for my entire life is finally happening. I wish he would have met my miracle but again, life it’s like it is.
After eight days without grandpa, life continues and I still have the newspaper for when the day that we, as a family, had to communicate that he was death but today I look at it with so much love, knowing that he is free and that he was loved with that kind of love I have learnt to give.
Roxi Guerrero is CuencaHighLife’s administrative assistant. To read her earlier columns, click here, and here.