Day 8: When the Exhale Hurts

I remember when my grandfather was dying, although calling him my grandfather doesn’t capture it all. I spent more days with him than without, and for the record he wasn’t Grandpa, he was Papa.

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I was in my twenties and He had been sick for so long. He had struggled with health problems most of my life, but there’s a difference between struggling and being sick. As a kid I had looked at our trips to hospitals in Boston as an adventure. The open heart surgery meant a longer stay and Chinese food for Christmas dinner. But there was never an unknown. He was constant, even when the man who was supposed to be wasn’t.

But then I grew up. And I hated understanding.

He was sick.

He was dying.

And I couldn’t control it or wrap my head around it anymore than I can wrap my head around who God is. It just was. And I hated the not knowing.

It was the worst part for me. Everyday I wondered if it was going to happen today. I wondered if I’d get to see him one more time and hug him and feel his scruff on my cheek.

Death is brutal, but the unknown is torture. It’s drawn out and unsettling. It left me full of worry and fear, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Of course the phone rang when you know it can’t be anything good. In the dark I pulled the covers over my head and pretended I didn’t hear it. Because now the unknown, my greatest enemy, was known. And I didn’t know how long I had been holding my breath.

As much as I fear death, the unknown was worse for me. When I went to say goodbye in the darkness and I wept and turned my insides out, there was a knowing. There was a peace. It was done. And there was no suffering, or wondering, or pain left to be had by him. There was emptiness and ache left in me, but I breathed for the first time in months that night in the dark. I breathed out all the fear I had been holding in. I let go all my grasping for the reigns and exhaled the pain.

If you’ve been holding your breath, it’s time to let go. You can view the rest of the series at the link below.

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