In a span of just 3 months, I’ve become so accustomed to the stinging antiseptic smell of the hospital. The blinding lights and endless corridors of whitewashed walls, the rustle of papers and occasional moaning and groaning of the patients; they’ve all become eerily familiar like a sickening soundtrack played over and over one too many times.
In a span of just 3 months, I’ve lost two of my beloved grandparents. I’ve watched them perish under such different circumstances, in such different ways, but in the end, it’s always the same–how their skin takes on a grey pasty complexion, how their bodies become like cold marble, and how they lay there so heart-wrenchingly still. Not a breath released, not a sound to be heard.
My grandpa left us 2 months ago.
We all saw it coming when he, who always strode about with his head held high, lived his last years in a wheelchair, and his last months curled up in a foreign bed.
We all saw it coming when his strong body languished to become a mere sack of bones; when we saw his eyes, once bright with humour and intelligence, dimmed to become devoid of all emotion, save for a sense of enervation that told us that even he knew his time was going to be up soon.
We all saw it coming, but don’t you even for a second think that it diminished the intensity of the pain we felt. All the uncertainty and time spent waiting, worrying about the inevitable, wondering when it would happen. It was excruciating and oh so draining.
My grandma left us just yesterday.
This time it all happened so suddenly, like a quick whip of a cord that leaves a harsh sting I know I’ll always feel when I think about how things have changed.
Just a couple of weeks ago she was still up cooking and watering her plants, feeding stray cats and calling me ever so often to check if I’ve been eating well. “Yes yes yes,” I’d reply impatiently. She always says bye but she goes on and on and never hangs up, I’d grumble to myself.
Who knew that a time would come so soon when I’d do anything to hear her voice again?
My grandma didn’t fade away silently like my grandpa did. She shouted, wailed and yelled till the very end.
Though her body visibly expired like my grandpa’s, instead of blank, emotionless eyes, she had eyes brimming with pain and tears. Though she grew smaller day by day like he did, her bruised and mottled skin pierced by countless tubes and syringes, she was desperate, kicking and screaming for the doctors to save her. Don’t let my heart stop, she would plead. Don’t let my kidneys fail, don’t let my lungs cease to take in air.
Two such different ways down the same path yet they both cause an equal, devastating measure of heartbreak.
However, I hold on to the knowledge that there will come a time where the grief will fade and gratitude will take over.
Instead of visualizing their still, lifeless bodies, I’ll remember their best smiles, their faces flushed with the blessing of life. Instead of regretting the harsh words I’ve said to them, I’ll be grateful for all the kisses I’d planted on their leathery cheeks, the meals I had with them and all the ‘I love yous’ I’d managed to say to them.
Instead of dwelling on the loss, my mind will roam over all the firsts in my life that they were part of–whether it was the first time I received an award on stage or managed to crack a half-boiled egg open perfectly–and I will smile and be thankful for these precious moments.
Though it seems impossible now, things will get better. Pain can perish and hearts can heal as time passes us by.
If you’re grieving the loss a loved one today like I am, take comfort in the fact that though we cannot determine their lifespan here on earth, we at least get to decide how long they live on in our memories and in our hearts.