I sat by my grand-father who was on his death bed which was next to the window. I could see the sun was setting, its reflection on the river. We sat quietly. He seemed so far away as he stared into space. I knew then that he had lost the will to live. When I commented on the beauty of the sunset he only stated, “Yes”, in a childlike way. His eyes were vacant, spiritless.
One of his friends was at the foot of his bed, telling him that he might never walk again, never shop for his frail 81 year old wife again or take her for promised walks where they might meander and stop to stare into shop windows, she leaning on him for support. This spirited, independent soul, proud and so sure he would always be able to take care of her was now no longer able to put off his inevitable dependence and helplessness. To him, death and dependence meant the same thing. He didn’t seem to want to fight off death but rather greeted it as one would a grateful pardon.
Whilst I sat by his death bed, I tried to remember what I could about his life. I could remember how he fell on numerous occasions, how he also suffered from a bad back for years. My grand-father wouldn’t take time off for a necessary back operation. After a heart attack in his late 50’s, he seemed so bent over and tired. I often saw him stop as he walked home after work. He would sit on a bench by the road and rest before his weary walk home, and then he would slowly walk up five flights of stairs to the apartment. I felt helpless as there was no way that I could help ease his walk back home after work. I wasn’t strong enough to carry him, nor could we afford to move to a different apartment, somewhere where there would be fewer stairs for him to climb.
I could also remember when my grand-mother became increasingly frail, my grand-father decided, at the age of 77, to have that back operation. I talked to him, begging and reasoning with him, feeling that he was far too frail to have an operation. Our discussions often...