One Last Story: How To Die Empty

Photo Credit: Bites of Style

Grandpa motioned for me to come closer, so I rushed to his ICU hospital bedside at Texas Harris Hospital. Was he finally about to tell me where he hid millions of dollars? Nope, not even close. He spoke, but I couldn’t understand him. Frustrated at the circumstances, I finally had a light bulb moment. Maybe he could write it down.

He tried, but his fingers could barely grip the pen.  I sat down. He smiled. His frail 82-year- old body had been through a lot. Rushed to the hospital on New Year’s Eve, and the doctors still weren’t sure what was wrong. But, like many politically correct docs say, “Your love one is in serious condition.”

Yeah I got the memo doc. Knowing how powerful words are, I came armed with inspiration stories, and a heavy notebook for my hospital visits.  Not only would I take notes on what the doctors were ordering, but  I would write stories too.   Watching the  hospital characters could make for an interesting thriller story , or perhaps win me a Pulitzer! My daydream was interrupted by papa.

Testing a new strategy, he motioned for me through his raised eyebrows. I rose to the occasion, but was foiled again.

He tried to speak, but couldn’t. Perhaps charades would work.

I positioned my left ear close to his mouth, but couldn’t hear anything. He struggled to explain.

“Papa save your words,”I said.

“I know what you need , a story,”I said. “Should I read another one papa?”

I had read 5 stories already from a book called God’s Lessons for Parents. Now, I know this sounds backwards, me reading him life lessons. But it’s all I had with me.

Papa smiled and said,”You already read me a story.”

“But, papa, “I exclaimed.” I brought a whole book.”

“No, darling that’s okay,”he said.”

These would be our last conversation we would have  with each other. He mouthed “I  love you too.” many days, but our conversation was never the same. Day after day, I brought the book back to the hospital and read to him daily.  He never said a word, his kidneys shut down, and his breathing became shallow. I played soft healing music and 28 days later he died. Two days before his funeral, I was tasked with writing the obituary, one last story.  I missed the deadline.

The funeral organizer texted  me  moments later, ” I have added you to the program  to read the obituary slash tribute.”

“Wait, I will pay for the printing myself,”I said. “I will even insert a page into all programs that has the written obituary, a keepsake you know.”

“Sorry, it’s not necessary,” she said.”

I wanted to shout, kick myself for missing the  deadline, but then as I got quiet and prayed to God, I realized this was how he wanted it to be.  And then I remember my grandfather, who told me he didn’t want to hear another story,  had actually tasked me with the privilege of filling in the blanks of  his life story.

I was honored, and a bit nervous.  Being an author, I’m used to writing not reading stories. But, I did my job to the best of my ability. So what’s the point of this whole story? We all have a job to do. Sometimes it’s in an unusual place like an ICU.  You could cry ,panick, protest or throw fits. Or you could show up, and do your job, each and every day, knowing, strange circumstances  doesn’t justify  a day off.

Tomorrow is not promised.  The next second  is not promised. So live life to the fullest, not because you are in fear of  dying , but because you fear dying with a U-Haul  attached to your life.  Because instead of giving, you lived a life of couldas and shouldas. Don’t let this happen to you. Every day , life is testing you. So get up,  do your job, and die empty.


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