Meditations On The Side of a Deathbed

I hadn’t been to a hospital since my grandfather died, and I didn’t want to be back. Hospitals were too sterile and sad.
When he was sick they had him pumped full of morphine with drips hanging from both arms, and tubes stuck in his nostrils which were blowing hot air filled with antibiotics into his lungs to treat the pneumonia. He didn’t say much, mostly because his voice was shot from all the coughing.
When he’d sit up, he’d just look at his plastic cup of water. No one knew what to say.
I could never decide what was worse between having the chance to say goodbye and not knowing how, or finding out that the person had moved on and you never got the chance to try.
I remember I expected it to be some kind of teary-eyed finale, where I’d find out everything about his past loves, travels, and scandals.
“I’m tired. I can’t get any bloody sleep. I’ve had about eight hours these past six days.”
No one knew how to ask the right questions.
“The doctors don’t know what they’re talking about. I’ve got to get home, where I can do what I like.”
We’d all assured him, he’d be home after the weekend.
I don’t think I ever saw him and my father hug, not once. Hell, I hadn’t hugged either of them since I was a kid. It was all just sad, the room felt lonely.
How many generations deep did this familial separation go?
I kept trying to get my body to move, to ask him questions but I didn’t know him well enough to ask. We were strangers.
I haven’t dealt with death much in my life.
I didn’t cry when my dog died. I thought I should have and I spent all night lying there, thinking about him and trying to cry.
My mother’s grandmother died when I was young and I didn’t cry then either.
All I’ve ever had as a reference is TV dramas. Everyone is wailing and throwing shit around the room. It was nothing like that.
I always felt empty and kind of afraid something was wrong with me for not feeling more.
I remember finding my grandfather’s ashes under the car seat and being confused when I was told what they were.


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Joel Lester is a Musician, Composer, Poet and Writer from New Zealand. This blog is an online portfolio of his collected works. Joel is currently working on a book of poetry to be released next year, a novel, an album of original music, and several chamber ensemble pieces.

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