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Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Peaceful Parting

On December 26, 2011, my fraternal Grandfather, whom I called Papi, passed away. It was a peaceful and quiet passing at 3 p.m. in the afternoon, with Mami (my fraternal Grandmother) by his side. I was away on holiday vacation in California and could not make it to the services held in his honor, but I know they were full of a calm spirit and memories of a life well lived.

A week before I left on vacation I received an email about Papi's state of health. He had suffered another stroke and was in hospice care, no longer able to return home and likely not going to live much longer. I was told if I wanted to say my final goodbye's, now would be the time. I struggled trying to decide what to do. I had so much on my plate already with the upcoming travels and bad weather, and I was in the middle of finals that I had already been working on and studying for for weeks prior as well. It all came down to this last week. Of course there's no convenience to life's tragedies, and of course family comes before anything, but I felt deeply conflicted. You see, Papi had suffered from Alzheimer's for at least the past five years, and had mentally checked out awhile ago. We had been saying goodbye to him in a drawn out process that was sad and slow already and, if anything, I felt he deserved to truly rest in peace.

I emailed my family:

As for seeing Papi and saying a final goodbye, I feel really torn. Ideally, if I had the free time without school stressors, I would love to come and be with you all. However, after pondering it, I really feel that the memories I have of and with Papi are the way I would prefer to remember him, especially since I feel that Alzheimer's took who he was a long time ago. I really feel at peace with the bittersweet and inevitable time that his body and mind will finally get to rest together, and rejoice for him over the abundance of good things that lay waiting on the other side! (Like my Dad!) I truly hope that if and when his time comes I will be close enough to attend services in his honor / memory, but I don't feel the pressing need to see him in person right now. I think it would be more for moral support and togetherness as a family, rather than for him, really; he wouldn't know me nor the meaning of my presence. I would rather keep the positive memories in mind instead, and if I am able to see him in the New Year, I will. I certainly send my love and prayers to you all though!! I wish I could come see everyone, but unfortunately this weekend just isn't possible.

I felt tremendous guilt for not being able to be with my family at such a difficult time, but knew that I just could not make it to Montreal amid everything else I had going on, and I also knew that whatever goodbye's needed to be said had been already. I couldn't help but feel happy for Papi to get to move forward spiritually and leave his worn out body and mind behind. They had served him well, but they couldn't anymore.

When Mami called me the day after Christmas with the news, I felt a mixture of quiet settlement, and a sad, open sorrow for her. I can't even comprehend what it must be like to lose your spouse. Even if you believe, as we do, of a life hereafter, continuing on for the rest of this life still seems so painful to me. To lose a loved one IS so painful, no matter what you believe. I love and respect Mami so much for her dedication and love to her dear husband when his mind faded and his body gave out. Still she cared for him, stood by his side, refused to send him to an elderly home, and reminded us all that she had made vows to him and until she could no longer fulfill them she would watch over and care for him, even if he no longer knew her. That is a for better or worse kind of love. She is a remarkable woman in so many regards, and I felt for the emptiness her heart must have been feeling upon losing her husband twice, in a way; first mentally, and then physically, officially. Losing Papi so shortly after losing her son, my Dad, almost two years ago is a lot on the scale of emotions to process. I can't comprehend the sorrow of a grieving mother and widow, or the faith it takes to know this part isn't the end.

It's terrible to say, but the fact that I had a long, drawn out and prepared goodbye made losing my first Grandparent a little easier for me. My second familial death experience. It's never easy. It's actually very jarring. It feels like losing a piece of myself; my heritage; an integral part of how I came to be here. Perhaps because losing my Dad was so sudden and unexpected and this was more foreseen, it wasn't such a traumatic shock. Perhaps because not having closure or not getting to say goodbye is something I fear tremendously, this way of getting to say goodbye felt better to me. It felt complete because I got to say goodbye on my own terms. There was no unfinished business and so I could let go. Death is a weird thing. You love people differently and you mourn them differently. I guess that's life.

Amid the sorrow I know Mami, myself and my aunts and uncle feel, I know above all there is peace. I know my Dad was waiting to greet his father on the other side. He was probably really excited considering last time they saw each other Papi wasn't the most responsive and aware version of himself. I can only imagine all the catching up they must have had to do! Alzheimer's is rough, I tell ya! Sometimes I lack faith, or rather a lack of follow through in my faith, but never have I doubted my belief that families can be together forever. Never have I questioned where my Dad is, or where Papi would go when it was time for him to leave this Earth. Often I doubt if I'll live up to the standards of being able to be with them again myself, but mostly I just feel so blessed to have known, and come from, such righteous and dedicated men of faith.

I am thankful that Papi was able to live a long and prosperous life. To meet all of his grandchildren (the third and newest addition arriving just weeks before Papi's parting), to raise four children of his own, and to leave behind a legacy of strength, obedience, courage, determination, love and faith.

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