I’m pretty lucky, I had 27 years with 4 grandparents. By 28, I’ll still be lucky with 2.
July 14th, my anxiety was spiking as I was scheduled to sit my first law exam. Mum came home, tears in her eyes, I said “what’s wrong?”. She said “I don’t know if I should tell you”. “Just tell me”, I replied.
Mum proceeded to tell me that Saba (grandfather), was in hospital. He woke up with extreme head pain, was rushed to hospital, and in a critical condition. Any thought of exams went, and we left immediately. By the time we arrived, he was already unconscious and on palliative care to manage his pain. We were told he had a bleed to about a third of his brain and only had hours, at the most a day or 2.
My world crumbled. I’d never lost anyone I was that close with, or old enough to remember. This was all new. My year had already been one of the worst in memory, and now this. It felt as if time stopped, none of it felt real. A week earlier all the family was sitting around celebrating his 89th birthday, everyone was well.
We all got our alone time to say goodbye, mum, dad, my brother. There was someone with him for the rest of the day, and I eventually went home. There were a lot of tears. As night came, I said I would stay over in hospital next to him, and my brother, Nathan, stayed too. I wasn’t going to let my grandfather be alone.
That night we had a sleep over, something we hadn’t done in almost 20 years. They say the hearing is the last to go, and if he heard anything, he would have heard his 2 grandchildren reminiscing about what an amazing man he was, all the good memories we had, the times we laughed, what he taught us, what he meant to us, and how lucky we were to have him for as long as we did.
Sleep was intermittent, and I was woken up by his breathing, getting shallower, but louder. The noise is extremely distressing to hear, but he wasn’t in any pain. Not being in pain, that’s what was important.
I fell back to sleep with his breathing in the background. I opened my eyes, there was no more noise. I looked over at him, and called the nurses. He had passed. We called our parents, and when they came, we said our last goodbye.
As painful an experience that was, and as many tears as there were, I couldn’t have imagined a better way for my grandfather to pass. After what his life involved, losing most of his family during the holocaust, suffering through the concentration camps – his passing was quick, he was not in any pain, he had his 2 grandchildren by his side. The funeral was the next day, people came over that following week, and that is life. On July 15th, Emil Schwartz had passed.
My grandmother, despite her grief, bounced back pretty quick. For a few months she was good, until she wasn’t. An infection that was non-responsive to antibiotics took hold. She was hospitalised, and it didn’t look good. Antibiotics finally began to work. Initially it seemed she would make a decent enough recovery, and was moved back to the nursing home. Secondary infections were always a possibility, and subsequently eventuated. Over the next 2 weeks, her health continued to deteriorate.
The exams I was unable to do earlier in the year, I was now scheduled to sit. I sat them, with this in the back of my mind. The day after I finished, I went in to visit. Physically she wasn’t great, but her mind was as sharp as ever. I walked in, her face lit up with excitement and a smile, already asking about how my exams were. Over the next few days, we continued to visit, and between mum, dad, and my uncle, there was always someone by her side.
By that weekend, the infections had taken their toll. Her agitation, and pain, was unbearable. Being aware of your own suffering, was agony to see. My uncle had been there that morning, mum since midday. Nathan, dad, and I, all in separate cars, managed to arrive at the same time that afternoon to visit. She was the most peaceful I had seen in weeks. Within 10 minutes of us arriving, she had taken her last breath. November 18th, Olga Schwartz had passed.
We all got our own time to say goodbye. Again, there were tears. The funeral was that week, and people came past to visit. Within 4 months, we had lost 2 grandparents, both relatively unexpected.
I had barely processed my grandfather passing, now my grandmother. It was hard to say the least, it still doesn’t feel real, but they are both at peace, and got to have both their grandchildren – their pride and joy – by their sides. My grandfather passed on a Sunday morning, and 4 months later, my grandmother passed on a Sunday afternoon.
In the scheme of things, death is always harder on those left behind. Grieving is tough, it comes in waves, and I don’t know how long it takes to fully pass. I wish I had some words of wisdom, or comfort, but right now I don’t. However, I do know that I’m lucky, 27 years with 4 grandparents. As a family, we support each other, and our family has a lot of amazing friends that support us.
We are lucky to have someone to miss, we are lucky to have someone to mourn, we are lucky we have the time and memories to remember. Any sadness is just an indication of how much love there was.
They will both be missed, but will continue to live on through us.