The past few weeks had been exhausting. His son would make numerous 4-hour trips back and forth to the hospital. “This is it – he’s only got hours to live” the nurses would say. And each time, he’d prove them wrong.
But in the last week, his mind had begun to wander. He would talk to the birds in his room. He threatened to punch a male nurse in the nose if he got too close to his wife. He desperately wanted someone to turn off the running water that was being wasted. He enjoyed watching Lilly, Bridget, and Sebastien, three of his favorite dogs who were sitting quietly in the room. He would have conversations with his brother-in-law, and he would ask you to pass him his pocket-knife on the table.
Of course, all of these were figments of his imagination. There were no dogs in the room. There wasn’t a single drop of water dripping. His brother-in-law was never in the room, and his knife and watch had been left on the table back in his apartment weeks ago.
Moments and memories, from his 83 years of life, were returning and reoccurring in his mind as he lay in the dreary hospital bed. His mind was leaving before his body was ready to succumb.
But after a week of senseless babble, and just moments after his only child, who kept his dry chapped lips moist with a wet sponge and a few sips of water, a few words of sense finally came out.
He looked over at his son and asked him, “Are you OK?”
“Yeah, I’m OK Dad,” his son replied.
“Make sure your mother’s OK,” he responded.
These would be his final words of wisdom to his son.
His eyes had barely been opened during the past few weeks; but on that final day, another mysterious event occurred.
His wife leaned over the hospital bed and put her face only inches away from his. As she stared into his eyes, eyes that had barely opened for almost seven days suddenly opened wide. It’s as if he sensed her being there. He stared back. While neither of them blinked, they stared into each other’s eyes for almost four minutes.
She whispered the trembling words, “I love you.”
And he responded, “I love you too.”
Hours later he quietly slipped away.
My Grandfather, Orville Willis Fleming, passed away peacefully Thursday, August 12th, at 83 years of age.
It’s funny how life works sometimes. I’ve had the absolute honor of having my Grandfather as a part of my life for almost 30 years, and yet biggest lesson he taught me about life occurred on his final day. After all that he had been through, and from somewhere deep within, he mustered up the strength to share those few last and final words with his son and wife. It’s that type of enormous strength and courage will guide me for the rest of my days.