Posted by: soulshinemoments | September 18, 2013

“You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” -Jan Glidewell

My grandfather passed away Monday.

I found out after class while sitting on my front porch in the muggy Georgian heat,scrolling through my newsfeed on facebook.

(What a stupid, fucked up way to find out someone has passed….But, welcome to the disconnect that is my life.)

I went for 15 years without seeing my dad and finally met him at the age of 18 in November.  Three months later in January, I met my grandfather.  I met him at the hospital in Florida while my dad was in surgery having his entire colon removed because of a cancerous tumor that had returned.  My dad was first diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 36 about a year or so before I met him.  It almost killed him and in September of 2001, they had given him 6 months to live.  I had met him a year later and at first, they were thinking he might be in remission. But, shortly after we met, he found out the tumor had returned.  The doctors didn’t want to take any risks, so they decided on removing his entire colon.  It gave him another ten years of his life; He just died almost a year ago in October.

So my grandfather and I spoke for hours in the waiting room as my dad, his son, went through extensive surgery.  My grandfather looked like Santa Claus/Jerry Garcia.  He referred to himself as a Nudist Buddhist.  He was a writer for a newspaper in Tampa, Florida.  He was an incredibly talented writer, speaker, intellectual, reader, and dirty hippie.  I was really into the Christian faith and philosophy at this point in my life (when I was 19) and he was very much into practicing Buddhism.  We had a friendly intellectual debate for hours while we sat in that waiting room. He was kind to me, a great listener.  There was definitely some distance between us.  He had been out of my dad’s life, for the most part, since my dad was a small child.  Then the pattern continued, and my dad was out of my life as a child. At the time, I put blame on my grandfather for this cycle.  Now I realize all of the complexities that exists for a human and have nothing but love for him.

After our long, intellectual conversations and my dad’s recovery, my grandfather mailed me a book.  It was entitled Living Buddha, Living Christ and it was a wonderful book which really opened me up to the idea that God’s spirit is everywhere, in many forms, striving to reach all of us humans.  My grandfather also wrote a note to my dad saying what a pleasant, highly intelligent person I was…which made me feel good.  After that meeting, I have probably seen my grandfather a couple of handful of times.  Usually, we would only meet up whenever my dad was in and out of the hospital.  While my grandfather wasn’t there much for my dad for most of his life, during my dad’s sickness, my grandfather was loyal and supportive and constantly by his side. My dad was in and out of both the hospital and hospice for the past 3 years and every time, there my grandfather would be, offering his caring presence and funny stories. I feel so grateful he stepped up the way he did.

The only times I saw my grandfather outside of the hospital context was a few months after Jackson was born and this past summer when my family went down to visit him at his house. He was proud of being a grandfather and of Jackson. He would send him baby tye-dye onesies. He seemed really proud of him. And he was so non judgmental of me and my choices. He constantly had a book he was reading and shared so many unbelievable, shocking stories with me and Jack. He truly lived life to the fullest and had a ton of friends.

He was still getting treatments for his brain and lung cancer up until about a week or so ago. I saw on facebook he was in hospice. And then, I saw on facebook he had passed. I know brain and lung cancer usually takes people out quickly, but he wasn’t emaciated like my dad was at 70 lbs before he passed. I just thought he would be with us a little longer. He was 69 years old.

I was nervous about going to my hospice internship today. I have been feeling fragile since Monday. It hasn’t even been a year since my own father has passed. Last night, I kept thinking about the personal deaths I have experienced in my lifetime: my grandmother, my step-dad, my dad, my grandfather. Going to my internship surrounded by more death didn’t really sound like something that I wanted to do today. But, guess what? It’s a part of life and life is lived better when we remember how delicate it is. Also, hell, man. I need to complete this internship so I can get a job so I can pay my bills and make sure my family eats! So, I had to face it for practicality purposes, too.

But, it went okay. My supervisor asked me if I wanted to strike out on my own today while she shadowed me. Of all days….ugh. But I can’t make excuses. So I agreed. The first patient looked at my blankly when I asked her if she needed anything, how she was feeling. It was awkward. I felt inadequate. Finally she motioned that she was in pain and I told the nurse.

The next patient I saw of ours was screaming out in pain, motioning toward her back, as she sat in the wheelchair. She cried out that she was having back spasms (and I freaking KNOW how painful those are! OUCH) and begged me to rub her back. I did while the nurse gave her pain and anxiety medicine. I rubbed her back for a good twenty minutes. “The pain is so bad that I wish someone would just shoot me!” She cried. I told her to take deep breaths and finally she calmed down.

This whole entry is depressing. I have been coping with my stress by losing myself in episode after episode of Breaking Bad. Ha. Maybe not the best coping mechanism. I have also been reaching out to some of my friends at school and they are wonderfully kind and supportive as well. My mom is going to try to come down this weekend and I am looking forward to that. My grandfather had a full, adventurous life and died with a gigantic support network of friends and love. Of the deaths I’ve seen in my life, his is one I would choose. Friends and family are all that matters. Everything else is stupid and petty.


  1. We are sorry for your loss…our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  2. I am sorry to hear about your grandfather. And no, not depressing at all, this entry. Very human, and a wonderful testament to your grandpa. I saw the “clipping” there and he certainly looked he enjoyed life. That book he mailed you is something on my to read list. I will probably purchase it now. I have heard of others speak of it, and it sounds wonderful. It sounds like you made peace with him, and in doing so, with your history, in some way.

    Touching post, really.

    Thank you and my condolences

    • Thank you for your very kind words. He taught me a lot even though we had only a few interactions together. He also gave me a book that I finished over the summer entitled Awakening the Buddha Within….I highly recommend it. I am going to re-read it soon and also am going to re-read the Living Buddha, Living Christ book. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks again for the kind thoughts.

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your grandfather and for your loss. I am happy you got to know him a bit before he passed and that he recognized what a wonderfully intelligent person you are.

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