When I was about 12 or 13, my grandfather (my father’s father)became ill. After multiple diagnosis, testings, and treatments, it became evident that he had cancer. I am unsure what cancer it was, or exactly how it started, but it came to be everywhere. In the end, it was all throughout his bone marrow and it was quite painful.
I loved my grandfather. I spent quite a bit of time with my grandfather. But my fondest memories of him are actually after his death. Those memories I will get to later. This story is about his death.
I was in junior high school. His illness had been getting worse. He was in the hospital and had been there for a while. There was nothing more they could do. The cancer had spread so far and wide, it was in everything. He was in so much pain that they had him on a continual morphine drip. We had been going to the hospital to visit him for what seemed like a month. It was actually probably more like a week, but as with most things in childhood, there are some things that just seem to go on forever. This was one of them.
On this particular night, we actually went into the gift shop at the hospital before we went up to see him in his room. As most of us know, the hospital gift shop is not the most pocketbook friendly place to buy a gift. At the time, I was completely oblivious to that fact. I also was oblivious to our family finances, which were not very good. Aside from the fact that my family was of a more lower-income than most, my father had been working for my grandfather in his business. With my grandfather being ill, business and pay wasn’t going so well.
On that particular night, we made an uncommon stop in that particular gift shop, and a very particular item caught my eye. A stuffed animal. It was an elephant. I can’t actually tell you what was so special about that elephant, but it was. It was grey. It was cute. It was just a stuffed elephant just like any other stuffed elephant, but at the time it was the most important stuffed elephant on this earth. I just had to have it for my grandfather.
I picked it up and took it over to my mother asking if we could get it for him. “Not today honey. Maybe next time.” That was unacceptable to me. It had to be that day, it couldn’t wait. She tried to convince me otherwise but I was insistent that it couldn’t wait, that we had to get it for him for that night. It was the most important thing in the world. So like any good mother, and with the help of sad puppy dog eyes, she bought it.
Which was good, considering that I was not going to let go of it until my grandfather had it. I hugged and loved that elephant the entire ride up the elevator, and the seemingly very long walk to his room. I held it as tight as I could, as close to my heart as I could, for as long as I could.
My parents had been nervous and stressed the entire night. As an adult that has been in this situation myself, I now understand what they were going through at the time. Back then though, I didn’t. When we did finally arrive at my grandfathers room, it was as if an enormous weight had been lifted off their shoulders. The room was visibly brighter and the mood was happier. My grandfather was sitting up, talking, smiling, and more active than he had been for quite some time.
After the initial greetings and endearments, my brother and I went to his bedside to do our part. We gave and received hugs, and I presented him with the stuffed elephant. His face absolutely lit up. It was like he was a child who had just received the best Christmas present ever. It was the happiest moment I’d had in a very long time. To see him so happy and full of life after he had been so ill was the best thing ever.
The adults all chatted. They all smiled. They all laughed. It was a very wonderful and heartwarming experience.
Us kids had school the next day, the adults had work, and surely my grandfather needed his rest… so the time came for us to leave. It was the happiest departure that my family had ever had from that room. My dad was smiling, my mom was smiling, my brother and I were smiling. My mom commented on how much my grandfather liked his gift. My parents talked about how well he looked. It was a very good night.
It was one of those nights that stick in your memory, and your heart, forever. A special night shared with loved ones, that reminds you of what family is. It happened just that way, for just that reason.
(due to length, the next portion of this story is to be continued)