Usually I share a new blog post on a Sunday, but this weekend just gone was far from my typical weekend, so instead here’s a belated, unplanned and slightly disheveled post where I don’t even really know what I want to say. I just want to talk for ten minutes, have a rant, a bit of a cry, and reflect on a bunch of things that are going on in my life right now.
Five years ago today I lost my grandpa. He was a person in my life who made a huge impact on not only me, but everyone he met. He loved his family more than anything and always put everyone else above himself, even when the cancer he had started to get the better of him. He battled it for years and was in and out of hospital fairly often, but the last time he was admitted, things changed in what felt like a split second. I’ll never forget what I felt when my dad sat me down and told me that he wouldn’t be coming home. I was seventeen at the time and although that’s not super young, it’s young enough to not know how to handle something like that, especially when you’ve never had to learn to cope with grief before. I didn’t even know what it was. All I felt was pain and uncertainty.
This all happened just before Darryl and I were about to fly off on our first ever holiday together. Of course I didn’t want to go, but it was my grandpa’s dying wish for us to go and enjoy ourselves. So we did. Holiday or no holiday, there would have come a point where I had to say goodbye. I remember it like it was yesterday, standing there next to my grandpa’s hospital bed telling him I loved him and trying to keep it together for the sake of my family. Walking away knowing that I had to leave him there was the worst feeling I’d ever experienced. That hospital corridor never seemed to end. Sadly, he passed away on the second-to-last day of our holiday.
I wish that experience was a one-off, but when you have a huge family like mine, it’s going to happen again, and again, and again. There’s nothing you can do to avoid it. As a child or teenager you’re often not familiar with grief, so the only way to handle it all is to become oblivious to most of what’s going on. When it was my grandpa, all I focused on was him. I knew my family were crumbling around me but I don’t remember it because I chose to block it all out, probably through fear. Maybe it was naive of me, but because I’ve been through it before I always thought I’d be able to deal with it a bit better as adult. It turns out it’s actually harder.
Yesterday my world fell apart once again when I lost my grandad. He’d been poorly for a while but he’s such a tough cookie, part of me didn’t accept that one day he would have to let go. He’s been through it all, having had heart operations, dementia, and a series of long hospital stays due to infection and illness, and all of these times have come with their own scary moment where we prepared to say our goodbyes. The last time it happened, it was ten minutes to midnight the day before my birthday and we got a call to say he’d taken a turn for the worse in hospital. The whole family rushed there from all different directions, literally hurling our bodies at locked doors to try and get in, only to find him sitting there bolt upright requesting jelly sweets like nothing had even happened. He had you shaking with worry one minute and crying with laughter the next. But we loved him for those tough moments as much as the good ones.
I wish age was just a number, but it isn’t, so it was only a matter of time before he had to leave us and go to a better place. Over the last few days he deteriorated quickly, but even without any nutrition or fluids in his body, he was determined to keep going for as long as he possibly could. He had a habit of doing that and bouncing back, so part of me thought maybe he’d pull through once again. To see him on Saturday was a shock for me, because only the week before he was his usual smiley self, but Sunday was when it hit home. I spent the night back home with my mum, wondering if we’d get a call, and when we didn’t we went straight back there the following morning and spent another day by his side. I’ve never seen somebody dying before, but while it was just as awful as I thought it would be, it was comforting to know he wasn’t in pain and he had his family around him. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
We got the call in the early hours of the next morning. It was absolutely heartbreaking, but it was also a relief, because to watch someone who means the world to you slip away slowly is unbearable. It didn’t really sink in until late last night when it suddenly hit me that I’d never see him again. Right now I can’t bear the thought of never hearing him say “hello sweetheart” again, or seeing him do that cheeky little guilty shrug when he’s told he’s not allowed any more cake. It’s little things like that which are so precious. I guess all I feel right now is this eery numbness, and a sheer dread as we wait for the funeral. My grandad was an absolute gem, and he’ll always be remembered for being everyone’s best friend, his beaming toothy smile and his undying love for tea and two biscuits. I have endless gratitude for his presence in my life. Rest in peace grandad, we love you.
I wish I could call it a day there, but my family and I also said goodbye to our cat, Dunston, on Friday. He was poorly and had suffered diabetes for years, but when you love pets like our family does, nothing can prepare you for the moment you lose them. When we lose a pet, it’s as devastating as when we lose a family member. He was 19 years old bless him, and he’d had a great life being cared for by such loving owners, but nothing and no-one can replace a pet. All you can do is be grateful for the years you had them in your life.
The past weekend has seen so much sadness, it’s just one huge blur now. No amount of sleep or hugs or time spent reflecting on good memories can take away the pain that we’re all feeling. You always know you love your family, but until you’re put in a position where raw emotions are fully exposed and everyone around you falls to pieces, you feel such an unconditional love that you’ll do anything to make it all go away. I guess at the end of it all, you’re left with a reminder that family should never be taken for granted. Whatever happens, they’re yours, and they’re the only people who build your life and make you the person you are. Don’t ever waste a minute.