The Prayer of the Heart
BY: JULIE LEVIN
I still remember the last time I held his hand and watched him sleep. Told him I loved him, not knowing when I would see him again. Although it might seem like I'm talking about a breakup, and this same situation has happened before in my love life, I'm talking about another kind of love.
Almost four years ago, I lost my grandfather. Growing up, my dad's parents were a second set of parents for my brother and me. When my parents needed a well-deserved break, for all of our recitals and sporting games, every holiday and birthday and really any day in between, my grandparents were always there. Even when we moved out to Arizona, they joined us two years later.
Gramps, as we called him, always had health problems — but he would never let you know it or talk about the pain he was in. Born with a rare blood disorder that affected his legs, he almost died more than a few times during his life. Fortunately, Gramps was a trooper and made up his mind that he wasn't leaving this earth until he saw us graduate from college. The summer after my younger brother graduated, we saw him take a turn for the worse. After a hospital stay, we noticed his memory started to go — as well as his ability to do certain things.
That winter, it was time to come to the realization that Gramps wasn't going to get better. He'd gone rapidly downhill. After the difficult decision to begin hospice care for him, we didn't know how much time we had left. Gramps was confused and irritated, not sure what was happening and sometimes belligerent due to his illness. The always incredibly kind and soft-spoken man was slipping away. Even with caregivers helping out, my grandmother wouldn't leave his side. She never did in their 61 years of marriage.
Almost as rapidly as the confusion came on, Gramps' body starting shutting down. Losing consciousness in the room where he spent years building model cars (he was an extreme car lover, a former race car driver and designer), we couldn't wake him up to let him know we were there. He couldn't eat or drink for weeks, so we began to say our goodbyes.
Unfortunately, I don't remember the last real conversation I had with him before all of this started. We're not sure if he was aware of what was going on at that point. I'm hoping he heard me talking to him, playing his favorite music for him and holding his hand, but there's no way to be sure. We all handle our grief in different ways, and I wanted to sit with him as much as I could, and that next week, only my grandmother and the caregivers were there with him when he took his last breath.
I sang a song at his funeral. Gramps had always loved my singing, and I hope he enjoyed the tribute in heaven. I'll share the English translation of the Hebrew song with you here:
My God, my God, I pray that these things never end. The sand and the sea, the rush of the waters, The crash of the heavens, the prayer of the heart. The sand and the sea, The rush of the waters, The crash of the heavens, the prayer of the heart.
I may have had my last experiences in life with him, but it's not over. He lives on in us and in our memories. So my friend, keep your loved ones close and enjoy every moment because every day could be your last — or theirs. Miss you forever, Gramps.
Julie is a digital producer, on-air news anchor, writer and a self-proclaimed history and classic rock geek. When she's not behind the scenes or mid broadcast, she's hitting the town trying new restaurants or meeting up with as many friends as possible in one day.