I watched my grandpa die over winter break. It might seem morbid talking about death and loss only a couple of days after Valentine’s Day, but I don’t think it’s morbid at all. In fact, I think that there are quite a few students at Trinity who have experienced loss, perhaps multiple times, and I think that this story is still about love. It’s just not about romantic love.
During the fall semester, my grandpa’s health rapidly deteriorated. A month into the semester, his kidneys started to fail and my grandparents started living with my family so that my mom could take care of him full-time. Stage three cancer quickly turned into stage four. A week and a half into the break, my grandfather would have moments of delirium where he stopped being able to talk, wouldn’t recognize us, and would start tapping on things just for the feeling and sound of it like a child. We moved his bed into the dining room so that more people could be around him at once.
And then the night before I was supposed to fly back for class, an aunt heard him gasping for air and screamed. There wasn’t anything we could do. He died in two hours. I cancelled my flight.
As soon as I could, I emailed all of my professors to let them know what was going on and asked if they thought I would be able to catch up if I was gone for the next two weeks, and if I could have extensions on assignments until I got back. Some of them thought I could. Some of them gently suggested I either take their class next semester or fly back for some classes and then fly back to Colorado again for the funeral for fear I would be behind all semester. I appreciated their honesty. I dropped two classes so I could have less catching up to do.
When I first got back, I could tell my friends were watching me pretty carefully. Four of them came just to pick me up from the airport. I would wave my hands and quickly laugh, assuring them that everything was okay. I didn’t mean it to say that I didn’t love my grandfather. I did. But his death was peaceful, and I know he’s in a better place now. If anything, life — and the people in it — can hurt more than death itself.
Even now, it’s hard. Sometimes, I’ll completely tune out of a conversation only to check back in at the very end. I’ll stare at my homework and watch the words blur together. During tests, I’d blank out a couple of times. I don’t even know what I’m struggling with half the time. Half the time I do, but I don’t want to say it out loud.
And yet I would do the same things all over again if I could. I’ve learned a lot about love this semester. There was something beautiful about the way my aunts would feed grandpa and pat his mouth with a napkin when he was delirious, or how my brother would give grandpa his meds and heat up his water every four hours so my mom wouldn’t have to get up and do it. I saw love when my friends quietly offered to listen if I ever wanted to talk to them about anything. My section editor has also been supporting me by giving me as much time as I need to get my act together and start writing articles again. I know that at least some of my professors are keeping an eye on me. I am keenly aware that I’m struggling in, well, most of my classes, if I’m being honest with myself. But I also know that if I muster up the courage to just go to office hours I would get the help I need. And I will. Probably by the time this article comes out, even. Life can be painful if only for the fact that it continues on whether we’re ready to or not. But we get to learn about sacrifice, and humility, and how selfless love actually is. I think that’s what’s keeping me going right now.