Another story of cancer

This night, my grandfather died. Of cancer. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer some month ago and decided not to undergo any treatment. He was 83 years old, the treatment would have left him without a stomach, depending on liquid food for the remainder of his life and with heavy chemotherapy. That is if he would have survived surgery. So he decided not to do anything about it.

My grandfather was a very active man, though that became less when he moved from the house where he had lived with his wife to a new room in nursing home. The emotional value of the house and everything in it was huge, and it cost him so much to work through it and decide which things to keep and which things to throw or give away. One cousin has some paintings, I have his old bed and his books were either donated to the church or given to his (remaining) children.

His collection of Bibles was donated to the church, for example, though he still had plans to start a new Bible study. And he wanted to follow another course at the University of Leiden, as he has done before with all different kind of subjects. He enjoyed it so very much in his new home, drinking coffee in the morning with all the other people, delicious warm lunches, friendly nurses and a very nice room. He still had his friends and family coming over and he was happy as can be almost a year ago when we were all there celebrating his birthday. With all the grandchildren we gave him a nice enlarged photo of the five of us. He enjoyed that so much! I think it still hangs in his room, though I can’t be sure as I didn’t visit very often.

I did visit him past Tuesday, after my aunt adviced me to go. She believed it might go very fast, which it did. When I went there with my cousin, he was lying in bed and hadn’t come out in a few days, except to go to the toilet or get washed. He didn’t enjoy lunches with his friends from the nursing home anymore, nor could he read. He was awake when we came and though he claimed not to have much pain, he was not even close to the grandfather I had known in liveliness. When only tired he would normally sit in his chair and simply sleep there, but his staying in bed gave away much.

I’m so glad I went to see him. I don’t think my younger brother did, and he is having a very hard time now, I know so much. We celebrated the birthdays of two cousins yesterday, and one of them stayed with my brother, because he couldn’t be alone. A good thing, I know now, because he would have cracked if there wasn’t anyone with him this morning when he heard the news. For my cousin it must be very difficult as well… He turned 16 today…

My grandfather is the third in the family to die of cancer, though again it was a different kind of cancer. As you will have understood, he was a devout Christian, probably convinced to go to heaven (though I can’t know for sure because we never spoke of it).  It must have been a comfort for him to know he would see his wife again, who died 21 years ago (my mother used to tell me I was her gift on mother’s day, just being born, and she died 2 months after). And he would also see my mother and her sister again, who he has had to bury 4 and 8 years ago. Though he has left us, he has done so peacefully in his sleep, at peace with the situation. 

Though neither he nor my mother will be around when my cousins finish secondary aducation or when I graduate at university or, most important to me, at my wedding day in June, I take comfort in the idea that they are probably together. And they will be there in spirit, as we will never forget them.

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