Death is fickle.
I learned this last year while caring for my grandfather. For the last several months he was alive, I experienced numerous close calls in which I was sure he would die.
My colleagues were more than gracious as I would drop my work and rush to his side. More than once I would return the next day and sheepishly report he had miraculously pulled through.
This absurd play on survivor’s guilt is where I find myself with Lexie. But the reality is that when someone is actively dying, nothing is predictable.
After Lex gave up dog food last week, I switched to a hard boiled egg/cottage cheese/brown rice mix that lasted one meal. The following morning she actually shot me a hurt look … how dare I offer her such a mess?
So she didn’t eat for a day. I wept, convinced this was the end.
Then Matt spotted an unopened package of lunch meat in the refrigerator, and offered a few slices to Lex. She dove in. She licked Matt’s fingers in gratitude.
Lex ate the cold cuts again this morning, but not as much. And she had to be hand-fed this time. While I’m reassured she’s eating something, I know ham is absolutely terrible for her renal failure. It’s all a dangerous game of give-and-take.
As the vet told me, just let her eat what she’s hungry for. Let hunger pangs lead the way. Honestly, I should consider it a miracle that she’s hungry at all.
The upside to these eating spurts is that occasionally she has a better energy level, and somehow her cloudy eyes have cleared up. She seems a bit more present. She rests her nose on my knee.
I know this won’t last forever. So for now, we play.
Just as with my grandfather, living beings rarely die on a time table. Because of this, I rejoice.
I had many treasured moments with my grandfather, especially near the end of his life. As hospice nurses became a fixture in his apartment, it never slowed the flow of conversation we shared.
Each day Granddad shared new stories that I somehow had never heard before. We ate goodies, and talked about how “they just don’t make things like they used to.” He marveled at my iPhone then told me about how trash pickup when he was a child was by horse-drawn carriage.
Granddad taught me to love fiercely, right to the end. He spoke to me just hours before he died, saying he was ready to go, and I was just feet away when he took his last breath. I wouldn’t have missed this moment for anything.
Granddad displayed nothing but grace and dignity in his death, lessons I let shape me as I move forward.
The days ahead with Lex will not be easy.
But I have no regrets as I walk this unpredictable road.
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