In my grandfather’s final days I witnessed many acts of unconditional love. My father, gently shaving my grandfather’s face as he lay in his hospital bed. My sister, wrapping her arms around me as I wept at the dinner table. My nana, holding my sister and I as we both wept after visiting our grandfather for the last time. My friends, calling to check in on me and see how I was holding up. It’s in the darkest hours of life that love shines through most brightly.
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The second to last time we saw our grandfather, my sister and I brought all the good news we could think of to his bedside. We laughed and smiled as we told stories and made jokes. Our grandfather, too weak to talk, responded to us in smiles and shrugs. “Boy, your kids have been taking real good care of you, huh grandpa?,” I asked jovially. “Rob sure is a good son, isn’t he?” To this remark my grandfather leaned back with great effort so that he could offer two deep, slow nods. As our conversation continued we shared agreement through our smiles and sighs. It is in my experiences at the bedsides of the dying that I see most concretely how the spirit transcends the shell of the body.
Eventually I found it too hard to hold back my grief, and let my fears fall. My grandfather reached out his hands, muttering something that I heard as, “Oh, don’t cry,” to which I quoted my father saying, “well grandpa, my dad always says, the depth of the grief is commensurate with the amount of love that is felt.” We talked for a little longer, and then it was time to say goodbye. My sister and I held my grandfather’s hands as we told him we loved him, and that we’d see him tomorrow. “Thank you for coming,” he mustered with a smile.
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My grandfather was truly a lovely man, someone who delighted in the arts, in nature, and in the potential for growth in all he came into contact with. I like to think that my grandfather influenced some of the best parts of me, and I’m pretty confident that I’m right.
Stanley Dropkin 1925 – 2021