November 9, 2010

A Tale of Two Funerals and an Skeptical Atheist: Part 2

Well the previous post dealt with my feelings from the death of Grandpa Charlie. It ran on longer than expected so this is the second part of the story and the second death I had to deal with. Instead of being a passive observer in what was going on and being complicit, tacitly supporting the mysticism that surrounded me I took more of a stand...but I'm getting ahead of myself .

When my last post ended I was just leaving the after funeral family gathering based around snacks, cakes, caffeinated beverages: a smorgasbord of artificial togetherness. Other family's may have been brought closer together by an event like this, but I don't feel that was the case with this unfortunate passing.

So my family drove home, tired and emotionally drained. I went to bed to lay down and quickly found myself asleep and then awoken. The phone rang, something urgent had come up an hour into my after funeral slumber. Mom and Dad were driving to the hospital, it appeared that Grandpa Allen was having some difficulty, his lungs had filled with fluid again. I sat at home with my brother and a close family friend. We sat waiting for the inevitable phone call telling us to come to the hospital and tell him our good-byes.

We didn't have to wait long, as soon as my parents got to the hospital it was apparent that this would be last night of his life. Grandpa Allen would die early in the morning of his 51st wedding anniversary, a fact that would only be remembered afterwords. He would be surrounded by family and friends, but I would not be among them. 

The three of us drove to the hospital in a surreal state. How do you say your good-byes to someone full of morphine, struggling to breath and who has no waking consciousness? It is a hallow self serving good-bye, but at least it grants a little closure.

We arrived and walked with heavy steps to the evaluator that would lead us to the 10th floor and a hallway to a room that had been emptied for us. The walk took only a couple minutes, but it felt much longer. There was a nervous energy that filled me, it was like I was excited to be there, but I didn't know why and still can't really make sense of it.

In the room were Grandma, Mom, Dad and pale man breathing loudly and fighting for each breath. It was 9 P.M. and for the next three hours were filled with many tears, tissue boxes, and stories of a man who would soon cease to be.

The stories were great. I learned, laughed and cried. An uncle showed up an hour later and brought back all the emotion that had somewhat eased with time. Doctors came in and out and kept the morphine flowing, and all the while we remembered and celebrated the better times. This was a proper sending out.

Of course I had to ignore a few statements about how he was going to a 'better place', or how Allen was dying  because he couldn't let Charlie beat him to heaven and that they will both be 'up there' laughing at us. I understood not only that that's what they think happens when someone dies, but also it is how they are able to cope with an awful situation. Knowing and thinking about that, left comments lacking the usual sting of annoyance they usually held.

Yet, as the minutes turned into hours, and the tears faded, and so to did the stories. All that remained was my Grandpa Allen gasping, struggling to breath despite the oxygen that was being pumped into his nose. With each minute that passed I had a greater appreciation for what was going on. I had said my good-byes, reminisced about Allen, and cried my tears. All that remained was waiting for him to die. The more I thought about it the more morbid it seemed, why sit and watch the person you loved die, what good does it do?

I was the only one that left, everyone else stayed, staring at the upcoming car crash. The car ride hope brought little solace, but I was able to relax a little more now that I wasn't watching, waiting for someone to die. Laying in bed I couldn't sleep, and just listened to music. After a few hours my family came home, everything was over, and I could now rest my tired eyes.

Part three, will talk about the funeral and the days after.

Thanks for reading,
-the moral skeptic

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