Our Five Ring Circus: An Unexpected Nightmare

Monday, September 20, 2010

An Unexpected Nightmare

On Saturday, my parents, Grant, the kids, and I drove to another state to visit my grandpap. He had just celebrated his 90th birthday on September 12th, and we wanted to celebrate with him.

My grandpap hadn't been eating well, and his girlfriend of 35 years couldn't take care of him anymore. A week and a half ago, she made the decision to put him into a nursing home.

I haven't seen my granpap in a long while, so I was really looking forward to spending some time with him.

When we finally got to the nursing home, my dad went to the front desk to ask which room he was in. After a few minutes, they led us back to the room. My mom was the first one in the room. She took one look at him, and turned around in shock. "That's not my dad."

At first glance, I was horrified. It didn't look like my grandpa. He looked far worse than what we were expecting.

He was sleeping, and Dylan and Lexie were standing at the foot of the bed staring at him. My dad quietly explained that their great-grandpa was very old and very sick.

My mom had returned to his bedside, and was holding his hand. Only a moment or two had passed since we arrived. She looked at us and said, "I don't think he's breathing." She just kept repeating it every few seconds while checking for a pulse.

At this point, Grant quickly ushered the kids out of the room. My parents and I went to find a nurse. My dad mentioned that my mom didn't think he was breathing. The nurse stared at us for a few minutes, and then said, "We thought you knew. He passed away about 25 minutes ago."

I will never forget the look on my mom's face as she turned around, in complete shock, and leaned into my arms.

We returned to the room, and said our goodbyes. It was so surreal. He was still warm.

What was supposed to be a nice visit with my grandpa had turned into an absolute nightmare.

I walked into the parking lot, ahead of my parents, and just shook my head at Grant. He understood, and took the kids for a walk while my parents and I made some calls.

It was quickly decided that the kids wouldn't know that he had passed away on that day. I can't believe that the nursing home had just assumed that we knew and let us walk in, with young kids, and stare at my grandpa's dead body.

To be honest, that sight is still haunting me. I'm not sure I will ever get it out of my mind.

We drove over to my Grandpa's house to talk with his girlfriend, Sandy. She was an absolute mess, and since she had just heard the news, she hadn't calmed down enough to call my mom yet. In the midst of everything, she had forgotten that we were coming to visit that day.

We found out that on Thursday, my grandfather took a turn for the worse. They began to feed him through an IV. Late Friday night, the doctor asked Sandy to make the decision about continuing the IV or not. He told her it was only prolonging the inevitable, but it was her decision. The next morning, which was Saturday, she made the decision, and they disconnected the IV. Shortly after, she had to run home quickly, and was planning on calling my mom. It was then that the nursing home called her to tell her that my grandpa had passed. Just moments later, we arrived. He went very quickly.

We got back into the car less than an hour after arriving at the nursing home. That entire hour had been nothing but a big shock.

I have my regrets. I should have gone to see him earlier. I regret not being able to talk to him one last time.

It hurt to see him like that. I'm trying to focus on the man he was..strong, tall, and funny, with a booming voice. That's how I want to remember him.

The drive home wasn't too bad. My kids, Grant, and I were along for the ride to cheer my mom up. Dylan kept telling my mom how much he loved her, Grant played my mom music on his iPod, and my mom and I played cards on cafeteria trays. We had fun and laughed. It was the quiet moments that were the worst. I'd glance at my mom, see the look on her face, and just tear up.

I believe everything happens for a reason. At first, I thought it was the worst timing ever. But we didn't need to watch him die. It's going to be a closed casket funeral, so we did get to see him one last time and hold his hand.

It was a late goodbye, but at least we got to say goodbye.


  1. I am so sorry! It's hard enough when you have a chance to prepare yourself... but harder when it's unexpected.

    I'm sorry... I hope the service is beautiful and full of all the things that make you smile when remembering him.

  2. Oh wow. I'm sorry about that. I'm sure it must have been a shock. My thoughts are with you.

  3. Oh, I am so sorry to hear about that and how you found out. That is terrible, and I can't believe it happened that way. Hugs to you all during this time.

  4. When my ex-husband's grandmother died, the family was sitting in the hospital room with her before the coroner came to get her. She had only been gone a short period of time. While we were sitting there an orderly came wheeling in another patient. We were, like, NO she just died. The other family was a little shocked, too.

    I'm sorry you had to go through that.

  5. That sounds like an absolute nightmare!! I can't believe the nursing home staff wouldn't say something. Ugh!

    Anyway, once again I'm sorry for your loss. I will keep your family in my prayers.

  6. I'm so sorry for your loss, I too hope the funeral is full of love and all the great things your grandfather did and happy memories. XOXO

  7. I am so, so, so sorry. I know the heartache of losing a loved grandfather... but I can only imagine the heartache of finding out in such a way. I cannot believe they didn't mention something to you as you walked in with young children. So sad.

    I'm praying for you guys! And for your mom.

  8. Oh my gosh....I am so sorry to read this. What a difficult way to find out about your grandpap's passing. I cant imagine what you felt when you found out. I hope that you can rememeber the good times that you had with him. I will be thinking about you and your family during this difficult time!!

  9. I am so sorry. Just try and remember who he was and what you loved moved about him. Remember that he lived 90 years of life and that he got to be here for one last birthday.

    I am sorry you had to go through that but I am happy that you got to see him one last time and I am glad that you got to be there with your mom during this difficult time.

    I will be thinking about you!

  10. I can't even imagine!!! I will definitely be praying for your heart and your family... wow. Bad form for the nursing home. Really bad form.

  11. I am so sorry. What an awful experience for all of you. Keeping you in my prayers.

  12. Wow! I didn't expect to read that. I am SOOO very sorry Stef. We send our love to you and your family. I'm speechless. Wow!

  13. I'm so sorry Stef! I can't imagine what that felt like & the shock you all went through that moment. Everything for a reason...and for whatever reason you were meant to be there at that time. Many hugs to you all!

  14. Oh, I am so so sorry!! I can't believe they just let you walk into that. Your poor mom.

  15. So sorry for your loss. Hope all things with the services go ok.

  16. oh geesh! I am so sorry for being so late :( my past few weeks have been so crazy. My deepest sympathy to you and your family sissy. hugs!


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