Last Friday my Grandpa went in for a routine stent procedure. He’s had one before so I wasn’t concerned that anything was going to go wrong. By Friday evening I received a call from my Mom telling me that they couldn’t complete the procedure. She was at home just having had surgery on her knee the day before. She said, “They couldn’t complete it and now he’s looking at having bypass surgery on Monday. He’ll be in ICU until then.”
My heart sank.
My Grandpa has always been the closest thing I’ve ever had to a Dad. He was there for me, I spent just about every weekend with him growing up, we would take countless weekend trips to the country to see his mom & the rest of our extended family, spent those hours driving talking about our family history (this is where my love of studying my family history came into play) and whenever I felt like I needed him…he was there. He’s what I call ‘one of my constants’.
He preached. He was a Baptist Preacher – very strong in his faith. He counseled so many over the years and I remember always being amazed by how many people looked to him for guidance. While he hasn’t preached in years, he still remains a man of God. He’ll even tell you that he’s not a perfect Christian (something else I adore about him – his humility), but he always tries to make things right.
I struggled with my faith for years. I found it difficult to believe in something I had never seen nor witnessed. Sometimes it felt easier just to shelter myself from being let down than to succumb to that faith, that hope…
I found my faith in July of 2008. I was in ICU for 6 days and the doctors all, but told my family that I wasn’t going to make it. My Grandpa came into my ICU room, placed a picture of my daughter in a bouquet of flowers that were sitting on a table next to me and said, “You can’t give up. This is your reason to fight…I’m praying for you”
Five days later I was released from ICU. Eight days later I was finally released from the hospital. My team of doctors called it a miracle. I called it faith.
While this post isn’t about religion (I respect those who choose to have a different religion and even those who don’t have any at all – that’s between them and God; it has nothing to do with me), it does play a vital role in how everything turned out.
My daughter and I went to visit him on Saturday and got to spend an hour speaking to him. I had told him how I had asked for prayers and positive thoughts from many people. He thought that was great and even made a quick audio recording expressing his gratitude to them.
On Sunday afternoon I called him at the hospital while my husband took my Grandma (she had stayed with us that night) back up to there to sit with him offering my husband a chance to spend time with Grandpa too (they really like each other). Our conversation was great. Here are some recaps from that conversation:
One thing he said that I didn’t share publicly was, “What I want you to do is pray. Pray for God’s will…whatever that may be”
It struck me hard and forced me to find my faith once again. It’s not that I had lost it, but it was a difficult request. What if God’s will was to take him? That was entirely too scary for me to face, but I did. I did it for my Grandpa. I got off the phone and I prayed. It was a difficult prayer, but I kept it honest.
“My Grandfather’s wish is that I pray for your will…what you want. Forgive me for being selfish, but I hope your will is to leave him here with us for a while longer. Whatever your will, I’ll accept it…”
Monday came around and his quintuple bypass had begun. I decided to stay at home for as long as I could. I wanted my daughter home from school just in case anything were to go wrong, but I didn’t want to have to keep her at the hospital all day at her age either.
Around 12 noon me, my husband and my daughter headed for the hospital. Before we left I grabbed some rosary beads that my Mom had brought me back from Italy just the year before. No, I’m not Catholic, but there is a cross on it and I needed my faith close to me as I was terrified of Gods will. I felt as if I had to put all of my stock in my faith that God’s will was to allow him to remain here with us. I placed the rosary around my neck so it would be close to my heart. Sounds silly, but all I could think was, “If I keep Jesus close to my heart, it will be okay…Grandpa will be okay”
I had received a text from my aunt Debbie saying that they were almost finished with surgery, that they only needed to perform four (quadruple) bypass, instead of five, and things were going great.
I was getting cautiously optimistic, but my relief was yet to come. I was still scared and needed reassurance.
Upon our arrival they had just been called back up to his room. I quickly followed and when I walked in I saw my Grandpa laying there with all kinds of wires monitoring him and on a ventilator. The nurses in charge of him explained what was going on, what was hooked up to him, what they had anticipated to happen and what they hoped wouldn’t. As they spoke, I didn’t hear every word…I could barely take my eyes off of him laying there. It was much too real.
They said he could hear us, but would be groggy and probably wouldn’t remember. I remember that from my own surgery – you’re pretty much clueless as to what is going on around you and literally just want to sleep.
Yet, there he laid…completely flat in the hospital bed with all those wires and unable to breathe on his own yet. It struck me pretty hard, but knowing he could hear us I didn’t want him to hear me cry so I kept them silent. “Be strong. He’s going to be okay…” I silently repeated to myself. My grandma, mom, aunts, step dad, husband and daughter were all there… I had to be strong. They were upset as well.
My daughter kept asking, “Are you okay, Mommy?” She was worried as I had tears in my eyes. She knows how much I love him. I assured her that I was and just kept watching him. I thought seeing him would make it better, but it seemed to push my anxiety up a notch more than even I had anticipated. I needed something more…something to show me that it was okay to exhale.
They asked that we leave and let him rest. I was feeling very unsure…uneasy. I decided to take a step near his bed to tell him that I love him and that I would be back. The nurse must have picked up on my worry as he asked, “Would you like to hold his hand? You can…he might even squeeze it for you” I shook my head in agreement.
I felt like a small child stepping up to him. I flashbacked to when I was around 16 years old and he had a heart attack. By the time I was allowed to visit him (after everyone else) he had fallen asleep. I walked in his room and he was lying in the bed, hooked up to wires and oxygen and I didn’t want to wake him. I whispered, “I love you, Pop! I’ll see you soon” and walked out. I felt defeated and that day I walked away unsure…uneasy. I didn’t want to feel that way again.
The nurse uncovered his hand (it was under a blanket) and I put my hand in my Grandpa’s and he repeatedly squeezed it. That’s when that cry slipped out…that cry of intense relief. There he was. He was OKAY and he was letting me know.
I said, “Grandpa, you said you wanted God’s will…THIS is his will! You’re okay!“ and began to cry happy tears again. My husband said he could see the worry leave my body.
I haven’t felt that much relief in my entire life until…he shook his head in agreement.
It was the 2nd time he had done that in a few minutes time. He did it once for my aunt as well. I could almost feel my own heart bouncing around inside, the breath that I had been holding in escaping my lungs and a weight being lifted from my shoulders. It was what I needed. Faith won. God’s will was done.
I believe in God. I don’t go around thumping on Bibles, but I will attest to the fact that I’m not ashamed of my faith. To which I just want to say….thank you, God. I know I can’t keep my Grandpa forever, but I’ll take whatever you are willing to give and I’ll never, ever take that for granted.
Today has been a great day. I love you, Pop! I’ll see you soon…