His Smile

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” Mark Twain

His smile was well known by everyone. He kept it on his face throughout this journey or as the doctors and nurses called it, “his transition.” I hated hearing the word “transition.” A word used to decrease the amount of sadness the word death gives people. The word that when spoken, you were hushed and told not to say it too loud so he does not hear. The word dying,  mouthed out and only said when your elders take you aside to assure that you are prepared for him to die.

My grandfather. A man who helped raise me to become the person I am today. I have watched him go from getting up before the sun to work all day to pay off his home, to ending his day with flowers in hand for my grandmother. I have seen the excitement on his face every time he sang, and the joy he had when holding my younger siblings in his arms. And now I will be scarred remembering him drained and tired from stress and the cancer that ate away at his body. He has been through so much in his lifetime and now it is his turn to rest.

My grandfather was a strong, caring and unselfish man. I remember moments when things were tough for my family, moments when he remained calm and pushed forward, and moments when he gave up his bed for me when I was young and ill. I remember early mornings as he left for work but never forgot to tell me goodbye and kiss my forehead.

And now I will remember the more recent things. Things like his heavy breathing and small smile fading as his body began shut down on him. His speech turning into mumbles and then simple nods for yes or no. His strength disappearing slowly as we try to keep him alive. “I’m very proud of you mija, thank you for everything,” he told me as I said my goodnights on the last night he was responsive. We did not exactly speak much on the average day, he was a simple and quiet man, but he always made it a point to ask how I was doing either in school or at work. He loved hearing about how things were going since he couldn’t exactly be outside of the house anymore. He tired to remain strong for everyone.

His support and affection was amazing as I faced small difficult problems throughout my life, and my support and love is all I want to give him in this time of need. I watched as my father and uncles cared for him, took the proper precautions, and my families faces as the stress over the loss of a great man became more noticeable. The desperation they had as they try to keep him alive as long as possible. I do not think anyone was ready for this, my grandfather was always a man to keep to himself.

This cancer however just could not be contained and kept a secret, and now we see the effect as it ate away as his body slowly. None of us wanted this and if we could we would take the pain as our own.

As things moved closer to the end of this “transition” and we pull together figuring out what new precautions need to happen, I wondered how he is doing and what song he is singing. I hate to realize just how many family members will never really know how amazing this man was, how loving and happy he always seemed to remain through everything, and just how powerful his voice was either with his wisdom or choice of song. I am not sure how prepared I am going to be visiting the home I grew up in with him no longer there sitting on the couch, arms folded smiling. The pictures I have taken of him are all I have left as I realize he’s gone and I will never see him smile again. I held his hand and promised him a ticket to my graduation. I plan to keep that promise. My grandfather is a man of faith and for him I have some too, and that he will forever be in peace and somewhere comfortable among the stars and singing. Always singing. I love you abuelo and will always keep you in my heart, thank you for everything.