He had been on a slow decline for quite a while. If he'd known the state he was in he would have taken care of himself. My grandfather had been controlling heart disease for as long as I can remember. He'd had two multi-bypasses, a pacemaker and a defibrillator. He liked to say that his defibrillator was better than Cheney's.
But, his heart just got weaker. He was starting to have memory loss, losing weight, getting breathless. When my mom called me in April and told me if I wanted to see him while he was still lucid, I needed to fly out. So, mom booked me a ticket and I got on a plane.
When I arrived at the airport the security line was massive. I just had my little, roller carry-on bag which I towed behind me while I read a book to pass the time. Because the line snaked I ended up standing next to people facing the other way. I had on one of my outfits with my red cowboy boots. At one point I looked up at the person I was standing next to and found a woman with a Coach handbag giving me the up/down sneer. It happened that her eyes were on the way up and I locked eyes with her when she reached my face. Caught ya! She gave me the "oh shit, I got caught" smile and I just raised my eyebrows at her.
Luckily, the rest of my trip was very pleasant. I got some In-n-Out and my grandfather was not only lucid, he was feeling well enough to go out for lunch. We had an excellent visit, I showed them pics of the kids on my phone and filled in both him and my grandmother on how they were doing.
When he became obviously tired, I hugged them both and headed out. I parked my mom's car in the high school parking lot down the street and started to cry. I cried for a long time. I was very sure that it was the last time I was going to see him.
After that, he got weaker fairly quickly. In the middle of July, after he'd been moved into a hospital bed at home and hospice was making regular visits, fluid collected in his lungs. The ER doctor drained it off, but it was found that his defibrillator had been restarting his heart. My grandfather had a DNR in place and the very difficult decision was made to disconnect the device.
It was maybe 48 hours later that he passed on. And we were all devastated and relieved at the same time. In order to allow relatives to arrange to attend the memorial, the service was scheduled for the 11th of August. This meant I was going to miss my last two days of school.
I could have told my mother that we couldn't attend until the 18th, which would have worked for others in the family as well, but that would have meant Zoe would miss her middle school orientation. I just couldn't do that to her. So skipped my very last day of school and we flew to the west coast for the funeral ritual.
I was told years ago that the subconscious loves ritual. And memorial services are for the living, not the one who has passed on. Closure as it were, is what it help provide.
The service was as perfect for my grandpa as it could have been. As a veteran, he was entitled to the Honor Guard ceremony. Two very nice young men came in full dress blues to fold the flag and play Taps. It almost killed all of us. Since Scott is also an Army veteran, he saluted as the ceremony was being performed. Will looked up at what his dad was doing and saluted too. And our little man held it for as long as his father did.
Then we told stories and Scott sang "The Rose" which my grandfather liked very much. He'd been cremated, so there was no casket. But there was a wonderful photograph of him along with several flower arrangements from friends and family. There was one gorgeous arrangement of orange roses, maidenhair fern and had obviously cost a pretty penny. And no card. There were no other services for that day and the delivery van had no lettering. We took the gift and appreciated it, although everyone wanted to thank whoever sent it. When the attendants came up to greet the family, Will spotted his grandpa Art and ran to give him a hug.
(And, like when my grandmother died in 1999, I did something silly. My mom had bought me a dress but I needed shoes. We went out and found a pair of wonderful soft pink, platform, suede stilettos. Tall shoes, these were. Scott really needed a glass of water and I offered to go over to the administration building of the cemetery to get it for him. I needed to go quickly, so I took my shoes off. That's when I remembered that it was August and I had to cross the blacktop. I didn't run, because I feel silly and I knew I might fall out of my dress. But I walked fast and stood on the grass for a minute before I went inside. I found the cooler, got Scott his beverage and prepared to cross back to the chapel. I'd said "Aw, screw it. I'm going to run across the street." Small problem. I couldn't run or I'd slop Scott's water all over the place. I did the "cool moss, cool moss, cool moss" back across the street without spilling a drop. Now, I had to put my shoes back on. I stood on a little patch of grass and got one of my killer shoes on. Then I had to balance like a stork with a glass of water in one hand and try to get my other shoe on. I managed it, barely. I finally went back inside so Scott could wet his whistle.)
Then we did the next step of the ritual, the reception. My mom found a really nice place that had it's own catering department. There was a bar where you could get a drink if you liked. We had a good visit with my cousins on my dad's side. And the food was actually not bad.
Two days later we said goodbye to my parents and got on a plane home.
At the funeral I read Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will
This be the verse you 'grave for me
Here he lies where he long'd to be
Home is the sailor, home from the sea
and the hunter home from the hill.