Losing a close family member for the first time reminds me how precious family is.
By Miranda Weippert
I left work at Totally Tan late Thursday night and arrived home around 10:15 p.m. I knew my grandpa wasn’t doing well. I knew that he hadn’t been responsive all day and that the RN nurse who had come early that morning estimated he would only have a week at most, left here on this Earth. After walking through the front door, I headed toward the living room. A hospice bed – keeping my grandpa comfortable – took up a room once filled with recliners, a couch and a TV.
My grandpa, Vernon Doran, was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer about five years ago. He passed away surrounded by loved ones Oct 13, 2016 at the young age of 77.
He could build almost anything. A chair. A bookshelf. A desk. You name it, he would try to build it. When I was younger I helped build whatever I could with him. The older I got, the more things I was allowed to help with.
My mother, sister and I moved into my grandparents’ house my freshmen year of high school, about the same time he was diagnosed. We moved in with them when our house foreclosed. My grandparents not only took us in, but took out a loan and had the entire basement refurnished just for us.
At 10:30 p.m. – 15 minutes after getting home from work – my grandpa’s bright blue eyes opened up for the first time that day. It was then when my mom told me to come and see my grandpa. As I sat next to my grandpa’s bedside, I grabbed his pale sun-spotted, hand with tears streaming down my face.
“It’s OK to cry Miranda,” my grandpa said. “I want you to know that I love you and that my heart beats for you.”
As my grandpa pulled me in for a hug, I realized this was possibly the last time I would ever hear my grandpa’s soft, sweet voice and be able to feel the warm embrace of his arms.
I remember during winters when I was younger, my grandpa spent hours in the backyard making a hill for my sister and I to sled down. In the summer he spent hours setting up the pool. Whether we were whipping up sugar cookies or old-fashioned donuts in the kitchen or planting flowers and vegetables in the garden– we were always creating memories.
Exactly one week from the Thursday night I spent by my grandpa’s bedside I received a phone call at work. As soon as I heard my mom’s voice, my stomach sunk and my eyes began to fill with water. Looking at the clock, I saw I had two hours left of my shift. I told myself to push through those two hours and then go home and be with my family. Only a half an hour had passed before I found myself calling coworkers to come in for me.
While I used school, friends and work as a way to avoid the situation, I couldn’t avoid the fact that my grandpa had just died.
I remember as soon as I walked out of work I started crying. I didn’t care if people were around – everything that I had been holding in and avoiding – finally came out.
It wasn’t just the death itself that was hard. Every morning for a month I woke up, dragged myself upstairs and acknowledged my grandpa, whether or not he was responsive. Every day I watched him get gradually worse. Every day I witnessed the process of his death.
I will forever cherish the words my grandpa told me that Thursday night.
“It’s OK to cry.”
“I love you.”
“My heart beats for you.”