It seems ancient to believe our ancestors are up there somewhere watching out for us, but then again no more ancient than God or a higher being. Personally, whenever I’ve prayed to God he hasn’t been available. Jesus is nowhere to be found. However, when I thought of a Grandfather who recently passed he got back to me within a couple days. There was not an actual conversation. He didn’t speak to me directly, nor did I see him. Out of desperation I simply thought of him and remembered how kind he always was.
Mario, that’s the nickname my sisters and I gave him, was a doctor and in this life he helped people who I continue to meet in all sorts of places. At work, school, in hospitals (of course), yoga, even at my hair salon. They recognize our name and are always surprised to hear I am his granddaughter. Technically I’m his step-granddaughter, but if there is one good thing that comes from divorced parents it is the addition of new family members (assuming they remarry). Before Mario died I witnessed several curious events.
The one that sharply stands out in my memory was just a few days before he died. We were in Hospice and it was just my mom and I. I remembered from when I was in the hospital how much I wished I had some chap-stick. I took out my Burt’s Bees and put in on his dry lips. His breathing was only possible because he was hooked up to machines, machines that would only keep him alive long enough for us to say goodbye. It was not his wish to fight against the aggressive brain tumor becoming a vegetable in the process.
Just the year before he took my little sister, Hannah, our younger cousin, Jessica and I to Disney World. It was such a shock to hear the news and yet he acted as if it were a routine dental exam. I guess it helps to have a medical background. For years he was the doctor and now it was his turn to be the patient. He chose to first seek the most experimental treatment. His choice could mean that we are that much closer to finding a cure. When the treatment did not work Mario did not loose composure. Instead he made arrangements for the funeral, carefully calculating all that would be done. Struck by grief Louise, his second wife, fell apart. My grandmother, Cindy, was stronger. Although they were long divorced after Mario’s affair with Louise, Cindy put the past aside to say good-bye.
As my mother and I sat with him quietly, he made just the smallest movement. The chap-stick seemed to give him some revitalization. I can’t recall but he may have attempted to speak. We left for a short time as Louise came in. Later that night a larger group of us walked in. I was in the lead, and before anyone else had a chance to see it he turned toward me and opened his arms as if to hug me. His eyes were open. I instinctively replied with a hello. Everyone turned and asked what happened but he had already resumed a limp yet peaceful sleep.
Mario took a turn for the worse and my dad, Steve, had to return from a business trip early. That night he died. Steve was with him and called my mom around 11 pm. My dad doesn’t cry often. Many people who don’t know Steve well think he is a cranky, heartless prick, but he has a good heart. People’s assumptions are untrue. Every time we’ve lost a pet he’s cried. In fact when our latest pet-death of Polly-Esther occurred he lost it before I did. She was pretty old but I wonder if we euthanized her too soon. She was frightened and struggled but eventually relaxed. I held her paw and made sure her eyes shut before she moved to the next life.
I don’t know exactly where we go when this life is over, but we are not simply dead. Call it a soul or spirit. Wherever they are, our ancestors are not just gone. They were here before us and while we never knew them, someone did, that’s what makes every life important.