Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A hiatus of sorts

As some of you may have noticed, it has been a few weeks since I last posted here on the Unit. A lot has happened in the interim, the most significant of which was the death of my grandfather late last month. His passing was quite unexpected and I'm still not entirely sure that I've come to terms with the fact that I'll no longer see him walking his dogs down by the lake shore or hear his hilarious -- albeit mildly inappropriate -- jokes around the dinner table. He was born just a few years after the Greatest Generation but embodied many of its most endearing qualities -- dedication to faith, family, and country; appreciating the value of a hard day's work; doing things not for the recognition it might bring but simply because it was the right thing to do. He spent his last days on earth just as he had the previous 84 -- living life to its fullest.

Grandpa had a stroke in the early hours of January 24th. When I got the call from mom, he was already en route to Erlanger in Chattanooga, TN, so I was hopeful that he would be eligible for fibrinolytic therapy to dissolve the clot -- that is, until I got the second call to confirm that it had been a hemorrhagic rather than ischemic stroke. My heart sank. He had already been intubated and admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) when I began my drive back to Tennessee. I spent the next six hours coming to terms with what I already knew was a grim prognosis based on my own experiences.  The burden of knowledge, as my uncle would later call it.

I was able to see him the following morning, although to me it wasn't really him -- at least not the person I had come to know over the last 28 years. His condition had rendered him a shell of his former self, an image I had hoped to be accustomed to based on my experiences in the ICU.  However, as any health care professional will tell you, it's never quite the same when it's your own. After the neurologist confirmed that the hemorrhage had progressed and his survival was unlikely, I helped my family make the decision to undergo comfort measures rather than further escalating his level of care, a decision I feel was consistent with my grandfather's wishes.  Within minutes he was gone.

As we prepared the arrangements for his memorial over the next several days, I reflected on my grandfather's life and the way he lived it.  I was again reminded of the brevity of life -- only a passing vapor -- and the importance of prioritizing those things that are the most important.  It helped reveal some areas where I'd lost focus and reminded me of many of those things that led me to where I am now. And while I still don't have it all figured out, I think the wisdom of my grandfather has brought me one step closer.  For that and all the many things he taught me along the way, I'll be forever grateful.

You'll be missed, Waldo.

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