Nothing is more terrifying than a brush with death. Although I am fortunate enough not to have experienced a lot of death in my life, there have been a few close calls in my family. My maternal grandpa, having suffered the effects of polio as a teenager, and diabetes and heart problems as an adult, has never been in great health at any point in his life. Of course, there have also been the painful bruises and badly broken bones through the years, as well. But nothing hit him harder than his chest pains and shortness of breath that night.
The feeling you get when you find out that the grandpa who has always affectionately referred to you as “Boo Boo Girl” is in the hospital, is indescribable. Immediately, images flash through my mind. I see the picture, taken from inside the sliding glass door, of my grandparents’ kitchen. My grandpa sits on the top step of his deck, his back to the door, gazing out at his perfectly groomed lawn. I sit at his side, my light blond, curly hair lying on my shoulders, watching over the lawn just as my grandpa does. Then, in an instant, an image of my grandpa lying pale on a hospital bed, tubes and monitors hooked up to him, flashes across my mind.
My family has always been extremely close, sharing birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries together. However, all of those things pale in comparison to knowing that there are people who will always be there for you at the moment you need them. When my grandpa was wheeled into the operating room that night in August, his family was there, telling him they love him while tears ran down his face. While my grandpa was having bypass surgery, my mom and grandma waited in the waiting room, worried that they might have said goodbye for the last time. Although I was not there in the hospital that night, I was at home doing some waiting of my own. I laid awake in my bed while I was supposed to be sleeping, seeing all the images in my head of my childhood with grandpa, playing dolls, playing hairdresser, playing doctor, and playing “restaurant.” I did not sleep well that night. Instead, I stayed awake, hoping with every fiber of my being that he would make it out of surgery and that I would be able to have my grandpa back again.
He did make it out of surgery that night. In fact, I still have my grandpa today, and I do not take one day with him for granted. Everyone gets “wake up” calls in life, whether they choose to acknowledge them or not. That was mine, and it has taught me to believe in appreciating what I have now, instead of once it is gone. Although I could not wait for that fearful, lonely night to end, I am strangely thankful for it now. We all take things for granted far more than we should, but never will I take life for granted again.
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