on death and dying
this is one subject that i’m not even sure i should write about. i guess i’ve tried to keep this blog rather impersonal for the most part. i usually keep my “internet persona” well separated from my “real life.” i try not to write about things that are too personal or bring up my family very often. granted, there are plenty of my “real” friends that call me norb, but it’s more of a nickname than anything else. strangely though, i’ve stayed with the same online handle for a long time, if only to keep a solidified online identity.
anyway, a couple tuesdays ago (the 16th) was a pretty sad day for me. around 7pm i got a phone call from my grandfather’s house. i thought it was him returning my call re: family holiday gathering, but it wasn’t. it was his neighbor. he told me he’d found my grandfather dead on the floor of his house, and mine was the only number he could find (i’m assuming because i was the last person listed on the caller id and we shared the same last name).
needless to say, i was completely caught off guard. it was the last thing i expected to hear. my grandfather was in pretty good health. he had a bad foot but that was about it. i did not know about any other major health problems. his mind was definitely still there, and he worked a lot with his hands and outdoors all the time. i just didn’t know what to say, so i think i said “ok i better call someone.” i felt like i was going to be sick. K told me that all the color drained out of my face and that i started sweating.
after gathering myself together for a few moments, i called my parents. it was a very strange experience, telling my mother that grandpa was dead. i was just glad it wasn’t my father who answered the phone. it would’ve been harder to tell him that his dad was gone (especially since my grandmother just passed away this past summer). i guess i’d never really thought i’d have to ever call them about a death in the family. i’d always assumed they would be the ones doing the calling. i think from the start, that kind of gave me the feeling that i was the closest (in miles) grownup to this situation. i started to feel that it was my responsibility to take care of it for the family, which i think put me in a very particular state of mind from the start.
i do not know what caused his death. we arrived at his house after the paramedics had already left. i spoke with the police and got the details, and then made calls to my aunt and parents to give them updates. eventually K and i went into his house to see him. he was still lying on the floor between the living room and kitchen. he looked like he was asleep really. i don’t know if the paramedics closed his eyes or if they were shut when he died. i’ve seen dead bodies before, at funerals, in coffins, dressed in funeral clothing. it was very surreal to see one lying on my grandpa’s floor. looking a lot like him but dead.
one of the officers told us we weren’t really allowed to be in the house while the body was there. he’s always referred to as the body or the victim or the deceased by the police, which i found oddly comforting. so we waited for awhile in the police cruiser or in K’s car. it was really a lot of waiting.
after awhile the last officer took us back in the house to collect important papers, my grandfather’s check book, and any valuables we could find. at this point he was covered with a sheet, which i found more disturbing than just him lying there, more final anyways, but seemed to comfort everyone else. we dug through his drawers and took what we thought would be important. other than his wallet and check book i’m not sure anything else we grabbed really matters.
the body transportation guy came around 9:30 or so to pick him up. i watched them put him in the body bag and put him up on the gurney and wheel him out. i didn’t have to sign anything at the end of the night, which i found strange. the police officer had to sign but not me. K and i got back home around 10 and i think i feel asleep by 10:30. all in all, it was a very draining experience and one i hope i don’t have to go through again for a long time.
update: since i wrote this the day after he died (but didn’t post it as i let things settle in and the holidays go by) i’ve attended the memorial service for my grandpa. it was a nice thing. he was creamated, so there wasn’t a casket with body or anything. i met my grandfather’s brother for the first time who drove up from florida for the service. afterwards we had food at a local church.
other than that, we’ve been travelling around a lot. drove up to my parent’s house then all the way to FL to visit K’s parents too. it’s been a fun trip, we have marek with us. he’s been very good in the car and all that. of course everyone loves him, which makes K and i both very happy.
anyway, happy holidays to all of you!