Dying Is Not The End
The first of October seems to have been dubbed "Kick-The-Bucket Day" for ill family members. My beloved aunt passed away on October 1, 2004 at 3:20 in the morning, after suffering for about two years with colon cancer. This year on October 1, my grandfather died at home with us after struggling to "make the transition," so to speak, for two very strange weeks. The first strange thing about this is the fact that he died at 4:50 in the morning, only an hour and a half after my aunt had died last year. This leads me to wonder if she had a supernatural hand in helping him cross. As for the other odd occurrences... well... I'm about to explain them, but first I'll give you the background story.
My grandpa went downhill very quickly and this surprised me, considering the fact that he'd been living with us since I was in high school (over five years ago) and we'd been prepared for him to die back then, but he had lingered. He was in bad shape all around, which is why he had to come and live with us in the first place, yet until this past month he made no discernable progress in either one direction or the other. Every so often he'd get sick with a bad cold, flu or even pneumonia (which, for the elderly, tends to be a death sentence). So my mom, my stepdad and I would make him comfortable, do what we could, and anticipate the worst... and the worst would just never come. Instead, he'd be able to barely make it through, a little weak but otherwise "okay" by doctors' standards, and he would cling to life until the next seasonal malady would strike him.
This cycle seemed like it would go on forever. Anyone who's ever lived with someone terminally ill will understand me when I say that this messed with my mind. It started to feel like he'd be around indefinitely, and I have to admit that I had mixed (and, toward the end, mostly negative) feelings about that. He'd been a lousy father to my mom, my aunt and my uncle when they were kids, and he had a horrific relationship with my grandma (spousal abuse and adultery, they were both alcoholics, eventually divorced, you get the picture).
Anyhow, I think he was lucky that my mom even kept in contact with him after the kind of past they'd had. The fact that she took him in and took super good care of him says a lot about her, and I think way deep down he knew that... not that he would ever acknowledge it out loud.
So when his situation really took its toll on my mom... when she saw that he'd keep drinking until the end of his days, when he'd embarrass her or say something rude while intoxicated, when he refused to take care of himself because he always assumed someone else would be there to clean up his messes... and, of course, when he'd get sick, then well enough to linger, then sick again... to put it frankly, it pissed me off. I hated to see how the whole business really upset her, and it upset me too.
I'd become bitter, though, and accustomed to the idea that this would just never stop. A friend of mine who had taught herself to read Tarot cards (and who had given 100% correct readings every time I had one with her), even told me last year that he was "looking good." She predicted he had another five to ten years. Well, that started to change after my aunt died last year.
I regret to admit that part of my grief after that came in the form of silent resentment toward my grandfather... who, once again, had come close to death (closer than ever, in fact) but recovered right after my aunt's funeral. It wasn't fair. My aunt was only 39, and had a loving husband and a six-year- old son. She was surrounded by family who didn't want her to go, and she fought as hard as she could until she was too exhausted to continue.
My grandfather, meanwhile, had just gone through what he'd thought would be a "magic" surgery to improve his leg circulation, and the surgery had just made him sick and crazed... but it wasn't enough to either put him out of his misery or make him better, of course. He also was pretty bored with his life by that point; he never did anything but drink, eat junk food, sleep and watch television. It didn't take a genius to see he was fed up with being here. Yet he remained while my aunt had to die. Inside I was furious, though of course I never said anything because I knew how mean and illogical it was. After all, it wasn't his fault she'd gotten sick, and it certainly wasn't his fault that she died.
He did start to change after that, though... and so slowly that everyone noticed except me. My mom thought that this year was going to be his last, but I had gotten so used to him sticking around that I didn't believe her. He stopped eating as much junk as he used to, then he gradually lost his appetite for everything else, except bratwurst -- this was his favorite dish, which he would only eat if my boyfriend cooked it for him. (He approved of my boyfriend, so at least that's one good memory I have of him.) He even stopped finishing his booze, but I was in serious denial of what was happening. I figured he was just depressed.
Here's where it starts to get weird.
My Tarot reader friend... the one who, only last year, had foreseen another five to ten years for him... asked me, over the summer, to remind her of my grandfather's age. I told her he had just turned 85. She then explained to me that she had asked because her outlook for him had changed. She had not been to my house since last year, so she hadn't seen him since before my aunt's funeral, but she said that she could feel it just the same.
"Readings aren't totally set in stone," she explained. "Ultimately, you're the one who decides what to do with what life gives you." She then told me that in her psychic studies, she had learned that every person is born with a certain number of "Houses of Jupiter" (I think that's what they were called... definitely the House of some planet). Anyway, these "Houses of Jupiter" basically translate into "streaks of good luck," and she said, "His last one is coming in this year. I don't know what that's going to mean for him afterwards, but this streak running out is the last thing I can see... so that indicates to me that he's on his way out."
Even this, I took with a grain of salt. I was that deep in denial and that convinced of my own selfish, angry view of the whole thing. Never mind that this friend has been dead on (you'll forgive the pun, of course) with every other reading she's ever done for me.
But sure enough, toward the end of September, my boyfriend and I were watching over Grandpa while my mom and stepdad were out of town... and the unthinkable happened. He didn't eat one bite of the bratwurst my boyfriend had fixed him. Nor did he eat or drink anything else, or even get up to walk. Ever again. He had decided to take himself out.
Now comes the major weirdness of my story.
My mom's sister sent us a "practical nurse" to stay with us while my grandpa was actively dying. The first of his final two weeks was horrible. He would doze much of the time, but every couple of hours he would wake up and completely freak out. His bedroom was right next to mine, so I would hear every cry, moan and scream, along with every effort by my mom, my stepdad and the nurse to calm him down. You can bet that none of us slept during that first week.
Especially when, instead of his usual frightened yelps, he would occasionally talk to what sounded like people in his room... people who were NOT my mom, stepdad, or the nurse, because I would know their voices. Plus, these "extra people" tended to make themselves known only when everyone was taking a brief break from watching Grandpa. My stepdad would go to work, and my mom and the nurse would go downstairs to eat or make phone calls.
I wouldn't hear what these unknown people would say to Grandpa first. I would only hear movement, like they were walking around him or sitting on his bed. He, meanwhile, would ask them questions, and talk about how he needed to make sure he had his wallet and all his luggage. Once he even mentioned something about train tickets.
Sometimes when I'd walk by his open door on my way to the bathroom, I'd see him making rapid movements in the air with his fingers, almost like he was taking notes or something. He'd never been able to move his fingers or hands so well before... he had bad arthritis. Yet these movements looked so easy for him. When I asked my mom about it, she said she thought he might be "cramming for the final exam."
He had three main episodes before he stopped talking altogether:
1. He kept asking us where his mother was. He was absolutely convinced that she was somewhere in the house with us, because he had seen her coming up the stairs and walking through all of the bedrooms.
2. He asked if Grandma was on her way over to visit. He and Grandma had been divorced since my mom was a teenager, and Grandma had died in 1995.
3. Mom told me one afternoon that while I was at school, he looked at the nurse and asked, "Hey... are those two guys here to take me to Heaven?" He pointed to the back corner of the room, over the nurse's shoulder, while saying this. There were no "two guys" anywhere to be seen, and the only "two guys" living at this house at the time were the nurse and my stepdad. My stepdad, however, was away at work when this happened. Mom and the nurse were the only ones there.
I find this encouraging more than disturbing, because my grandpa was a hard core atheist his whole life. He had never believed that any life existed beyond this one. He figured that when you were dead, you were dead, and that was all there was to it. So for him, of all people, to see not only our long-deceased relatives in the house but angels too... and to recognize them as angels... that's a pretty big deal. And it was a good note to end his first week on.
During the second week he was dying, he never made any noise. The nurse had decided to start giving him morphine, which kept him nice and quiet at all times. No more fussing, yelling or crying, and consequently, no more talking to invisible visitors, either.
So these visitors started talking to the rest of us instead.
On Thursday, September 29, I was in my room doing some reading for school, when over the course of a few minutes I heard two different people calling my name. The first was a woman, NOT my mother. It wasn't her voice, and it wasn't her attitude. This was an old fashioned voice, which called me by my proper name instead of the nickname my mom always uses. This made me jump, since my bedroom door was shut and nobody was in there with me. My mom was downstairs at the time, and this woman sounded like she was right next to me.
Not five minutes later, a young man's voice called me by my nickname, again sounding like it was coming from right next to me. It was not my stepdad or the nurse -- I would know both of their tones and besides, my stepdad was at work and the nurse was busy with my grandpa in the next room. I also had all my lights on (since, again, I was reading), so I could see every corner of my room quite clearly. Nobody was there that I could see. I figured that whoever these people were, they were there because they knew my grandpa was close to the end. I guess they were letting me know that they were nearby, maybe to visit him, or maybe to help him cross over.
On Friday, September 30, my brother came to visit us and see how we were all doing. I was sitting with him downstairs in the living room, while my mom, my stepdad and the nurse were upstairs giving Grandpa his morphine. I was in the middle of telling my brother something when, all of a sudden, his eyes grew wide and he jumped out of his chair, looking behind him.
When I asked him what was wrong, he sputtered, "You CANNOT tell me you didn't just hear that." I had heard something odd, I'll admit, but since I was across the room I couldn't clearly tell what it was... but he sure could.
He said that a man's voice had come up right behind his chair, and whispered loudly, "Pssst.... hey." He said that it did not sound like either our stepdad or the nurse, and we knew it hadn't been them anyway, since they were still upstairs.
Another visitor for my grandpa, I guess. It could have been one of his four older brothers, all long dead from old age. It could have been his friend from World War II, whose plane was shot down. It could have been his best friend from high school, who was killed in a car accident. The guy I had heard the day before could have been any one of these people too. We'll never know for sure.
As for the woman I'd heard, I'm guessing it was his mother, since he had asked about her so much before he stopped talking.
Well, my boyfriend and I said our goodbyes to him that Friday night. I wasn't sure if he could hear us... he had been deaf in one ear and really hard of hearing in the other, even before he started dying.... and there was the morphine too... but we talked to him anyway. I told him, "Listen, don't make this too hard on yourself... those people you've been seeing, when they tell you to let go... let go. They're here to help, and they'll take you to the right place. You should trust them."
My boyfriend added, "Try to get some peace, buddy. You're almost there. And if you want to say hi, we'll see you in our dreams. Let us know how you're doing over there."
Then my boyfriend (who I think was a lot more upset about this than I was) asked if he could talk with Grandpa alone, so we all left him in the room with him for about five minutes. I asked what he'd said to him after he was through and came downstairs... and he said, "Oh, that's our secret." He'd probably gotten emotional and didn't want us to know.
Grandpa died just hours later. He looked better in death than he had all month... relaxed, relieved, home at last. I guess that proved that he could hear us cheering him on to the other side at the end... and that our extra, invisible house guests were indeed there to help him check out, because our house has had no paranormal activity since then.
Grandpa appeared to my brother in a dream only one day after he died. He did exactly as my boyfriend and I had said... he came to let my brother know he "got there."
It makes sense that he appeared to my brother, instead of me or my boyfriend. Now that he's on the other side, he probably knows all about how mad I had been before he declined, and how I was afraid he'd never go. And my boyfriend was too heartbroken that soon after his death. But my brother, who's more forgiving than I am and who took his passing better than my boyfriend, was the perfect person for Grandpa to contact. I just hope that he knows I'm glad he's at peace. As resentful as I was toward him before things got bad... I did not wish this drawn out end for him.
And in light of the small miracles that happened in our house... the voices of people long-deceased, showing us that life does go on... I'm thinking that negativity doesn't matter anymore. So I'll end this story with a message of hope. Take heart, everyone: Those we lose here, we'll see again there. And to my grandpa: I'm glad you found peace.