Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Of waiting rooms and miracles

"Isn't it wonderful that after 63 years of marriage,
you can walk into a room and still think
your husband is the most handsome man there?"
"Well, it is because I am the most handsome man there!"
--overheard in the ICU at Mercy Hospital on Monday night

The past few days have been a whirlwind. Sunday morning, I was anticipating two long flights home from St. Louis, with a busy week ahead. That all changed when I picked up my mom's voice mail, explaining that Grandpa had been taken by ambulance to Mercy, under respiratory distress...and they were pretty sure that this could be "the end". Since that phrase isn't uttered all that often in our family, Jonathan helped me arrange plans to leave St. Louis and head directly to Des Moines.

For one of the first times ever, I happened to be close enough to the family to be able to get there quickly, just in case things didn't improve. Being 2000 miles away at any given moment (from the northwest to the midwest) usually means scrambling for flights a day or two later, and living by phone message.

About seven hours after getting the call, I was walking into Mercy in Des Moines. Nearly my entire extended family had been there at one point in time or another that day. Grandpa was hooked up to the ventilator (doing about 60% of the work for him), was on a feeding tube, and was sedated. As he is the longest pulmonary success story at the hospital (16 years and counting), it was a big difference from the norm.

I introduced Angus to his great grandpa. I told Angus that Great Grandpa wasn't ignoring him, normally he was much more loving and opinionated. :) We waited out that evening, and headed home to West Des Moines. I honestly thought that was the last time we would see him alive.

Grandma, my aunt Darcy and I stayed up talking about life, family, and changes. I so wish Mom could have been there. The question that Grandma do you start over at 83, after 63 years together?

Darcy reminded us as we all went to sleep that it was up to God and Grandpa.

The next morning, Grandpa was awake. Absolutely miraculously. Asking about football. Asking about the world series. Wanting his glasses. And as Grandma noted, not asking about his wife. Evidently, sports and reading the sports section come first. :)

The next few days reminded me about the depth of love within our family. Watching the ways that my uncle Jim and aunt Darcy constantly serve my grandparents, through good times and bad without complaining. Seeing how my cousin Tara and her husband Oliver step in to handle all the tasks that Grandma and Grandpa can no longer do around the house and yard. Laughing as my cousin Jessica brings in her boys who light up the room when they run in. Seeing Grandpa's eyes light up when his five-year-old great grandson, JJ, sends in a happy face balloon to help him feel better as he moves out of the ICU. Thanking God at Mass yesterday morning in the hospital. We cheered as he settled into his new room and the stock market was up nearly 900 points. We turned off the 24-hour political coverage after about 5 hours. :)

These days remind me that yes, life does go on. Sometimes, there is great sadness as death takes our loved ones from us in this life. Other times, there is rejoicing when they recover and are able to spend more time with us before our heavenly reward.

Grandma and I talked about realizing how each day from now until Grandpa's last breath is a gift...sometime to treasure as we never know the day or the hour.

And I am so glad that I got to spend some of those days and hours here.

Watching them together makes me so grateful for my amazing husband at home, who told me that I needed to be here and that he could take care of everything until I got home. Who listened to me sob on Sunday morning as I drove north, wondering what was ahead. Who mapquested directions from the airport in St. Louis to the hospital, and was my rock when I needed him.

And who will wake me up tonight when he gets home to tell me he loves me.

I can't wait.


Anonymous said...

shelley, my thoughts & prayers are with you & your family. i hope nothing but the best for your grandpa.

KCina said...

Glad you are home safe & sound...glad you got to spend time with your family, especially your grandma & grandpa!!! 63 years...awesome!!! Continuing to pray for his health and continued recovery.
~ Kathy

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