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Rated: E · Short Story · Death · #1592597
The last moments of a dying man's life.
The strangest thing happened to me one night, something I will never be able to forget. The thoughts of it send chills down my spine and force me to question much of what I know and believe.

My grandfather and I had always been close. Always. He'd been there and taught me much of what I know. I didn't come from a broken home like many people. I didn't live with him, but it always felt like I did. I was there constantly, listening to him and what he had to say. I enjoyed how he sounded. His voice wasn't very deep, but you could hear the years in it, the wisdom it carried with it. He was a tall man, his large hands always picking me up when I ran to hug him. He never failed either. He would throw me up in the air and catch me on the way down.

As I got older, he taught me more and more. He taught me the art of hunting, teaching me patience, showing me the beauties of the Earth as we waited for something to appear, many times returning home with only the visions of the world around us.

When he was diagnosed with cancer, it tore my whole world apart. I was sixteen at the time and knew nothing of what was to come. I'd never been around death, never seen it first hand, never even been to a funeral at the time. I'd never seen someone fall from a disease that wouldn't claim their life, but wouldn't allow them to live either. It was a disheartening and disgusting display for me, one that made me cry on several occasions.

It happened on his last night. He'd been reduced to nothing, nothing more than a vegetable lying in our guest room. When he'd taken a turn for the worst, my mother demanded he be taken out of the hospital so he could die in our home, with family surrounding him. She couldn't stand the thoughts of him laying there in a hospital bed, surrounded by cold walls and strangers, and his heart stopping, the nurses and orderlies writing it off as just another one gone.

He was very talkative that night, restless and dazed at the same time. I left my room to go sit with and comfort him. I was seventeen then, still living at home while I attended night school. I went into his room. The hall had been quiet, the only sounds being the creaking of the floors as I walked towards the door. Inside his room were the sounds of him, his oxygen, the bed making a rattling sound from him trying to get up. He couldn't do that because he had no strength left in him, but he continued to try.

“Are you okay, Papaw?” I asked him soothingly.

“What am I doing here?” he asked me. “Why are you just sitting there?” I sat down beside him.

“You don't feel well, Papaw,” I said in a loving manner. “You live here with us now.”

“I've got to get up. I've things I gotta do.”

“You don't have enough strength. You need to rest.”

“I can't rest,” he said. “There's not enough time.”

I felt his head, it was piping hot. I couldn't tell how high, but I knew he was running a fever. His body was sweaty. The poor man had been reduced to so little, a man who once carried himself with great pride and dignity. I held both of his hands.

“It's okay, Papaw,” I said. “It's okay. You don't have to worry, it's okay.” He stopped talking and stared at the ceiling. He looked at me and gave a curious smile. He looked down and saw my hands holding his and gave a slight squeeze. He barely had enough strength to do that.

When he left, it was an eerie feeling. I was there. I was sitting next to him holding his hands. I'd stroked his face to get the hair out of his eyes. I'd been there the whole time, but he was gone. There was only the sound of his oxygen machine pumping.

It was that moment and those feelings that send chills down my spine. There I was, a young man of only twenty, and I had ushered my Papaw out of this world and into another. I'd held his hands as he came to peace with all that was. His hands were still warm, but their grip was gone. He simply looked like he was asleep, his oxygen still pumping through his nose. I didn't know what to do or how to respond. I just sat there.

Everything came rushing back to me at once. All the things we'd done while I was growing up, the places he'd taken me, the things he'd shown me, the advice he'd given me on so many things, things I couldn't even go to my parents about. I realized the memories were now all I had of him. There would be things that would be passed around the family, but that was the only thing that was truly mine. It gave me a new feeling; a strange one I'd never experienced. I laid his hands down on his bed and stood up. His lifeless body was before me. But there seemed to be some sort of glow about him. I've never had any opinions on the afterlife or lack there of. It didn't matter to me, but wherever he was, I could tell it made him happy. I knew his time had come, and I knew it was for the better. He didn't want to be like this, and I was glad to know he was okay now. As the tears formed in my eyes, a smile showed, then slowly faded away.
© Copyright 2009 Joel Cobbs (jncobbs at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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