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Remembering ?grandpa's last days

"Think about what you're going to say," mom said to me. Her solemn, humorless tone conveyed to me that her next words would not be lighthearted ones.

"Your grandfather is on life support and has very little time left," she explained, barely holding back tears. "I would recommend you consider what you're going to say to him when we visit. This could be the last time you see him."

The following trip to Mercy Hospital was not only surreal, but unpleasant, yet it prepared me for the inevitable passing of my grandfather.

I looked out the car window but never really focused on anything. My eyes mechanically glazed over the passing scenery, as security cameras watch over bank vaults.

Upon our arrival, I glanced out the window and noticed the overcast of gray clouds set behind the ominous looking hospital. We quickly made our way towards the entrance, trying to ignore the biting cold penetrating my hoodie and jeans.

As I passed through those doors I was instantly assaulted by the heavy smell of hospital disinfectant. Stationed every thirty feet were Purell dispensers. My mom did not hesitate in applying it with every other dispenser we came across, encouraging me to as well.

My grandpa's room was cramped and dimly lit. A crucifix hung on the far wall. Attached to the wall was a camera, from which the nurses could monitor his minimal activity. An array of IV's, food tubes and wires surrounded the bed, hooked up to him.

Spread out on the bed was my grandfather. To the right of the bed was a ventilator, from which a snake-like tube was attached. Ironically this serpent was causing him much discomfort, but at the same time was the very device that was keeping him alive. Being in a position like this truly put him at the mercy of those around him.

Having the tube in his mouth robbed him of his ability to communicate verbally. His only option was his eyes. His eyes pleaded with us for help; they screamed anger, sadness and discomfort. Somehow, I could still make out his young face.

I was able to see it amidst the wrinkled skin, white hair and dry, cracked lips. My sister began to weep. The sound of her tears reminded me of the sobriety of this situation. Tears glistening from her cheeks, she requested to talk to grandpa alone.

We all left the room and waited out in the hallway. On a nearby television there was an advertisement for a workout DVD set. Displayed on the screen were strong, fit people. Grandpa used to be like that. It was torture seeing him in this state – a once-fit, young, healthy athlete reduced to a shell, hooked up to machines.

As I walked back into the room, I realized it was my turn to talk, and to my surprise, I found the words. The nurse had informed us that he was still able to hear. I talked to him about the time I came over to help with his dog, how we sat on his couch and talked for hours and other memories. I talked to him about Jesus. Lastly, I told him I loved him, and said goodbye.

Silently we made our way through the maze of hallways back to the lobby. We all saw it coming but never thought the day would actually come. He was never good at expressing his emotions. However, he always made the effort when it came to me or my two sisters. I will always remember him for that.

Dan Giovino, 18, of East Aurora, is graduating high school. He has also been a non-matriculated student at ECC since his sophomore year.