"So, grandpa isn't doing very well, guys. The pneumonia is causing his lungs to fill up with fluid and he is having a real hard time breathing. They tried different medicines and procedures to get the fluid out and make grandpa feel better but nothing is working. There really is nothing else that can be done." I tell the kids earnestly.
"Does that mean grandpa is going to die?" Tommy asks nervously.
"Yes, honey. Your lungs are just supposed to have air in them and grandpa's are filling up with fluid so that makes it hard for him to breath." I repeat again.
"I want grandpa to die because then he will get to go to heaven and I will be so happy for him. It is much better there." Joey wisely says.
"Yes! That is exactly right, Joey. Such a smart boy. I am so happy for grandpa. But the hard thing about death is that we are sad for us because we will miss grandpa. So we are both happy and sad at the same time." I try to explain. Wasn't it just yesterday that I was explaining all of this to the kids about my father? Here we are again so soon.
"Grandpa is gonna die?" Ben asks again.
"Yes. We don't know when. But grandpa has been having a hard time with Alzheimer's for so long and it only gets worse. So really, we should be glad that grandpa won't have to suffer anymore. Daddy is with him right now. They moved grandpa from the hospital back to his nursing home." I tell them feeling the deja vu.
"Today at school when we were having our prayer circle I asked my class to pray for grandpa because he has ammonia." Tommy informed me.
"It's pneumonia, honey. That was so nice of you! How nice for grandpa to be getting so many prayers!" I respond, giving him a hug.
"Mom, I really don't like Alzheimer's. It's stupid." Joey says.
"I know. I agree." I say as I put my arm around Joe. "If you want we can go and see grandpa. Let him know how much we love him. Thank him for being a good grandpa. Would you like to do that?" I ask the kids.
"Yeah!" "I would!" "I wanna see granpa!" "Yeah, let's go see grandpa!" The kids answer in unison.
We quickly get our shoes and jackets on and head out the door to grandpa's nursing home.
When we get there the rest of the family is in a meeting with hospice. The kids and I go to grandpa's room to keep him company. As we walk down the hall the nurse explains to the kids how grandpa is sleeping and has a breathing tube in his nose. She tries to prep them for what they will see. Little does she know what wily veterans my kids are with Alzheimer's, nursing homes, and death.
We say "hello" to grandpa and let him know we are all here for him. We talk about the various pictures of grandpa around the room and talk about grandpa's favorite subjects, the cabin, hunting, his dog Daisy, and his family. Grandpa moves around a bit letting us know he is listening. The kids are so brave and compassionate holding grandpa's hand and talking to him. I could not be more proud.
Soon the rest of the family is in his room with us. We all say an Our Father together at Ben's request (and then a Hail Mary, The Guardian Angel prayer, and all the other favorites too) and grandpa wakes up briefly to look at his wife and hold her hand. Seeing the love between grandma and grandpa is such a beautiful thing to witness. She strokes his face and speaks sweetly and lovingly to him and you can see his desire to respond. Love. I say a silent prayer for God to give grandma strength. Peace.
Soon Father Jim arrives to give grandpa the Anointing of the Sick. The minute Father begins the blessing grandpa's arms stop flailing and shaking and he folds his hands on his chest in complete peace. Father's words wash over the room with such love it moves the whole family to tears. What a blessing to watch such a sacrament. A baptism into heaven.
Afterwards the room feels lighter.
Later that night as the kids are getting ready for bed the finality of it all begins to set in. The kids cry and say they don't want grandpa to die. They ask how old they will be when we die. There are tears and hugs. They want to be happy for grandpa, but of course, there is sadness and worry as well.
It is a waiting game now. We pray for grandpa's comfort and peace. We pray for strength, peace, and comfort for grandma as well, and that both grandpa and grandma may feel God's love and their family's love surrounding them at every moment.
And we wait.