I count it a blessing that I was 27 years old before I lost a grandparent. But 10 years ago today, I experienced the first great loss in my life. It was sudden and unexpected. My grandpa John hadn't been feeling well and the doctors didn't have any answers. They went in for exploratory surgery and came out with a diagnosis of colon cancer. A rare, aggressive form of cancer.
There are things I remember and things I can't quite recall correctly about that time. I wish now that I had journaled then. While I can't go back and redo that, I can still record my memories now.
- the Dr. drawing on the whiteboard, quickly explaining to us about the cancer they had found - signet ring cell colon cancer
- needing to run home (not sure why??) and my dad telling me to look up the type of cancer - he needed more data than what the doctor had had time to provide initially
- smoking a cigarette in the car with my sister, just trying to process the information (I hadn't smoked in 3 years at that point and I haven't smoked since)
- spending lots of time in the hospital waiting room with family
- the small room that my grandpa was moved to after his surgery
- getting new information daily, what the next steps were going to be, focusing on getting him healthy enough to go home and then they would focus on treatment options
- and then, the next unexpected thing....an aneurysm? a stroke? We aren't sure as the family chose not to do an autopsy but something happened. My sister, a CNA in nursing school at the time, was in the room when it happened and sprang into action
- going out with my dad and some others for a smoke (them, not me) and peeking into a window where you could see the Dr's frantically trying to revive my grandpa with the paddles
- looking at my grandpa's face and eyes as he lay there on the table and just knowing this was going to be the end
- My other sister and my cousin scrambling to get home from college to say goodbye
- The immediate family all sitting in the waiting room. My grandma needed support to make a decision about how to move forward. Heroics or no heroics? We went around in a circle and voted....no heroics. It was time to accept that he would not be leaving the hospital. We kept him on life support for a little bit longer (I think, a little fuzzy on the details 10 years later) until my sister and cousin arrived
- More family arrived, he was taken off life support and we waited. The Chaplain came in. Scripture was spoken, songs were sang, tears were shed. It was so sad and so beautiful all at the same time
There is more to remember but for now, I will end with this, one of my favorite photos of all time. The hat, the boots, the belt buckle, the blue truck, his easy way, my grandparents home away from home in Arkansas, the fact that my grandma was behind the camera - she surely directed him :) This photo epitomizes John R. Nichol, 1931-2006.