An Illness Can Set You Free
My grandmother died in December of 2004 after suffering seven years of bedridden torment. When she died we saw an opportunity to spend more time with my grandfather. My mother had big plans for him. She imagined that he’d come to Atlanta so we could show him around and try to get him back into our lives. We didn’t know that soon we’d be watching another relative waste away without our control.
After visiting his doctor with breathing problems, my grandfather was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Inoperable – that is the kind of cancer that you can’t live through. It’s the kind of cancer that consumes you until your body is too weak to keep living through the pain. He had worked in the military from WWII to Vietnam and Asbestos was in the building that he worked in. What kills me today is that his company knew asbestos was in the building, they just didn’t do anything about it.
We were devastated when we heard the diagnosis; well, some of us were. My grandfather seemed to have already embraced his fate saying if this is what God has planned for him then he would get through it without questioning.
Grandpa kept this attitude throughout his illness and he seemed have befriended the idea that soon he would go “home.” He got sick fast and soon had to move in with my aunt. We visited him often, and we watched him become more of a skeleton than the trim and fit man that he once was.
When I first heard him talking so coolly about the cancer it scared me. I don’t know how someone could be so ok with that kind of diagnosis. I was worried that he was just trying to cheer us up, but now I realize that he was completely serious. He had total faith in God and what he had planned for him. To me, it takes a strong and dedicated person to keep this attitude even after receiving such horrible news. Because of his optimism, I find it easier to believe that an illness can set a person free of their earthly troubles.
He died in September of 2005. I didn’t go to his viewing because I didn’t want the vision of my grandfather’s empty shell to be the last memory that I have of him. At the gravesite service, soldiers honored him with their solute and flag. As they carried out the ceremony, I felt warmth inside me. I was incredibly sad that he died but I was comforted with the thought of him being finally free. He wanted to be free of his illness and failing body. He knew that heaven was close to him and he wanted nothing more than to be there. I feel safe knowing that, even if only in his mind, he is there, has been made well again, and is finally at peace.
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