I still remember the date of that faithful day for it was November 20th 2004. I experienced a new feeling which I had never felt before, as we entered a room smaller than the 28 teal seated ICU waiting room, I truly felt fear. Walking towards my grandfather’s bed, I saw my grandfather vulnerable for the first time. The nurse had put small plastic strings around the base of our skulls to hold in place thin paper masks. Masks which were meant to protect us from a TB super-strain and not from one of the strongest men I have ever known. Standing by his side I grasped his hand in mine; the instant he gripped mine back fear was cast aside and was replaced with the clarity of how a man should face his end.
All my life I had looked up to my grandfather as a pinnacle of faith and strength. He instilled in me a foundation for what I should be spiritually. One could say that my grandfather died on that bed with twenty tubes in his body and a rosary in his left hand. It was as though he held on just long enough to say goodbye that faithful day. Everything changed from that point on, for me at least. Thanksgiving still came five days later, and the whole world it seems went on with a routine of indifference.
I was no longer the little boy who would beg for the giant pixy straw at the gas station, no longer did I thirst for Big Red strawberry soda, and no longer did I see the old rusty gray truck which my grandfather had let me “drive”. I was now an honorary pallbearer for my grandfather, not a little boy sitting by his side at a high school playoff game. I had been an honorary pallbearer for my uncle a few years earlier, but I was not mature enough to understand why. I felt courage as I stood behind my father and cousins as they carried my grandfather to his resting place; courage which was delivered on the wings of God’s good grace. I learned by the resolve and strength of my grandfather’s fingertips that I had nothing to fear in death. For now I know that what my grandfather gave me in that moment was the courage to face death and stare it down.
When I sat in the teal seats of the waiting room, I would look around at the three white phones stationed in various high traffic areas of the room. I waited for someone to call and say that my prayers have been answered. I now know that I was praying for the wrong thing. I prayed for my grandfather to live but when I saw him wanting to go I was confused. I now see that I was selfish while my grandfather was being selfless. He taught me that when I see my end I am to hold my ground only to say in someway, shape or form that I am okay and nothing more. All that I know now about my end comes from one handshake which has caused me to believe. For this handshake is why I believe in the power of fingertips, because to this day I have not received a handshake as powerful as that rendered by my sedated grandfather on his deathbed.
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