We have lived in the basement at my grandpa and grandma's house since before Beege was born.
He had his first heart attack the March just after she turned one. I had woken up and was standing in my living room when I saw the flashing lights. I knew he would be okay by the way he was joking with the paramedics on the way out on the stretcher.
After a couple of surgeries and a lengthy stay in the hospital (where he had opportunity to flirt with many nurses), he was back in his chair in the living room where he belonged. He got stronger, and the next few years passed.
Last year, around Beege's birthday, he started getting sick. He was losing weight and eventually stopped eating altogether. He was hospitalised to try and figure out what the problem was. The doctors decided that his medications had been interacting in bad ways and changed all of them.
He got better.
And then he got worse.
He went back into the hospital, where they told him that there was an issue with his heart. He also had cancer.
He came home, and sat back in his chair. For a man as independent and strong willed as my grandpa was, I can only imagine how hard it was. He was getting weaker. He was used to doing everything for himself, and now he was having to rely on others for everything.
My husband and I helped as much as we could while trying not to be obtrusive. I helped him up when he fell, I helped around the house, and we joked with each other about it. Grandpa and I didn't do serious very well. As he started needing more and more help, my husband would go upstairs some nights to help Grandma get him ready for bed.
On August 30th, my grandma called at 11:30, apologised for the lateness and asked if my husband would be able to come upstairs to help. They were having a particularly bad time. Grandpa hadn't been entirely lucid since Thursday when they had given him some heavy duty pain killers after his cancer treatment.
I didn't usually help at bedtime, out of respect for his privacy. Tonight though, I felt strange, and I stayed in the stairwell in case they needed me.
My husband was just coming back down the stairs when Grandma called him back.
Grandpa had stopped breathing. When I went in, he was laying on the floor and my husband was doing CPR.
I couldn't do anything.
The paramedics came and worked on him while I stood in the hall and watched. They tried to get him to breathe. They did what they could and then they loaded him on the stretcher.
When one of the paramedics told us that we didn't need to hurry to the hospital, that maybe we should get some coffee, I knew already.
My aunt took Grandma to the hospital, and I stayed behind to wait.
I tidied the room. I moved the furniture back into place. I scrubbed and scrubbed at a spot on the carpet that just wouldn't come out. I put the sheets from his chair in the laundry.
I opened a window so that I could breathe.
Eventually, I just sat in Grandpa's chair.
The Funeral was, perhaps, harder than watching him leave the house on the stretcher. It was easier to understand that he wouldn't be coming back when they took him away; he was covered in wires and tubes, he didn't look like himself. He looked empty. In his coffin, he looked as though he was just taking a nap.
I still don't know what I believe, but I am finding it hard to believe that he is really gone. And I refuse to believe that all that's left of him is dirt.