In an attempt to keep chronological posts, I’m posting this basically as-is from when I wrote it on the flights back to SF
What a week. I’m somewhere above Arizona as I start jotting down my thoughts and reflections. Saturday was the DDI press release, something I was really happy to have taken part in. Sunday morning was a call from both my mom and my dad. Poppy Cal was heading home to the cabin
from the hospital to die in his own bed per his request. I booked a flight and a rental car and prepared for a journey across the country. San Francisco, CA to Hiawassee, GA. I left San Francisco on a 6:50pm flight, jumping on the plane literally at the last minute after
overhearing that my normal 8:15 flight was delayed. A bounce through Las Vegas, and a flight through the night to Atlanta plus the 3 hour time difference put me on the ground in Georgia as the sun was rising. I somehow managed to get my bags, convince the friendly people at Hertz
that I was capable of driving a motor vehicle and made the 2.5hr drive north to Hiawassee.
I drove through the back roads of the north Georgia mountains and multiple childhood memories of Christmas and summers spent there. I pulled up to the cabin that has barely changed to find a house full of family awake and glad that I had made it. I almost immediately went back to see my grandfather, knowing that the time was short.
My grandmother was back there with him, sitting by the bed where his frail and tired body was resting. He woke up to see me, managed a smile when he recognized me and repeated my grandmother when she reminded him that I came “all the way from California” to see him. That one moment made the whole journey worth it.
The next three days saw us alternating shifts to keep him company. My grandmother spent more time than anyone and slept with him at night. He progressively got less and less communicative, and we did our best to keep him comfortable. I was glad that the decision was made to open the
bedroom window at one point so he could hear the wind, the light rain, and smell the fresh air of the mountains. I was glad he would be able to live out his last hours this close to a familiar place that was surrounded by nature.
Tuesday brought us a frantic phone call from one of the cousins. After some confusion and multiple phone calls, we determined that she had been in a pretty serious car accident, totaled her car, but she had only minor injuries compared to what could have happened. Everyone breathed a small sigh of relief upon hearing that. Tuesday also provided me an opportunity to spend about half and hour alone with my grandfather. Most of it was spent in silence, but I did get a chance to tell him how much I admired him and how amazing he was. Quite the special moment.
Wednesday night my mother emerged from the bedroom with my grandparents to let us know that the time was close. We all gathered in the bedroom and some chose to sing to him, starting with Amazing Grace. He even attempted to sing with us but he was so weak that it came out as just small moans. Nevertheless, it was nice that he knew we were there. After about an hour, my grandmother remarked that he was no longer there. His breathing continued and his heart was still beating, but his soul, the spark that was Poppy Cal had gone. Both my grandmother and aunt remarked at how suddenly his face had changed and how it was apparent that he had decided to go. Eventually his body decided to follow.
We all comforted each other for quite some time until we slowly trickled out of the bedroom when we each decided we were done. It was rough to see my father, a man I looked to for strength so often, in the shape he was. He sat there with his hand on his father and I stepped over to put my hand on his shoulder. Two generations saying goodbye to a third. He expressed his gratitude for me being there and I was truly glad I could be there for someone who had been there so often for me.
We called Hospice and they came and took care of all the little details with death and made things so much easier on us all. Calls were made to all sorts of people that Clarence had touched in his life. While it was truly sad to see him go, there was a feeling of relief in the cabin, as he was finally no longer trapped in his failing body.
I started creating a slide show of old photos that I had gathered earlier from the multiple photo albums while everyone trickled off to bed. Sometime after 3am I finally curled up on the couch to try and get some restless sleep. I awoke in the morning to my dad and his wife preparing to leave the cabin. Slightly confused my sleep clouded brain tried to put pieces
together. My dad finally came over and explained that JM’s sister’s baby was going to be stillborn and they were heading to Raleigh. I said my sleepy goodbyes and they headed out.
I spent the day working on the slide show, getting it ready just minutes before I needed to leave in order to catch my flight back home. As I gathered my bags, I noticed an email from my boss that said to call her ASAP. After getting on the road, I tried to connect up with her, but spotty cell coverage prevented it. Finally she got a hold of me to let me know what was up. The company had cut 7% of the employees (47 people), and I was part of that percentage this time. She said they were willing to offer me another position, on another team, supporting another product, in the Santa Clara office but at the same salary. After a few minutes of thought I told her thanks, but I just didn’t think I’d be happy doing that. I chose to take the severance package and will take advantage of this opportunity.
I’m on the flight into SFO as I finish writing this, looking forward to seeing Heather, the cats, and just collapsing and totally crashing hard in my bed. It’s been a rough week, taxing both on my body, mind, and soul. Saturday I head to Vegas for Devin’s bachelor party where much partying will ensue. There’s no reason to be sad and depressed. Poppy Cal was an incredible man whose life was worthy of celebration. Getting laid off is a wonderful opportunity for me to take a leap into something I’ve wanted to do for awhile. I’m closer to my family than I have been in years, I have a wonderful girlfriend waiting for me in SF, and an awesome set of friends. Why not celebrate?