Reflections on one last week at the cabin

Posted in Personal News at 4:38 pm by divinity

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?


saying goodbye to Poppy

Posted in Personal News at 4:40 pm by divinity

I’m lying on a familiar couch in a familiar cabin in northern Georgia that hasn’t changed for as long as I can remember. (My grandmother said that was entirely intentional) The family has gathered from around the country to see my grandfather off. It’s relatively peaceful around the house and we’re all doing our best to keep him comfortable. We’re all glad that he’s here in the cabin he loved and not stuck in a hospital bed. We’re able to open windows and let him smell the fresh air and hear the rain. He’s able to sleep in his own bed, and in a familiar place. There’s always at least one of us by his side so he’s never alone as well.

I’m really glad I was able to drop everything and make it out here quickly to see him. He’s able to communicate with a few words here and there and definitely knows who we are and when we’re with him. Seeing him smile at me when I walked in after the 2300mile/12hour trip with only 2hrs of sleep on a plane made it totally worth it.
For now we sit and wait, eating a lot of food, reminiscing, watching old videos, looking at pictures, and just being here for him and each other. The rest of the extended family will be trickling in over the next few days most likely, and I’ll be here till Thursday. Suprisingly it’s not a depressing or all that sad of a gathering. We all knew that this day was coming eventually, and it’s progressing as naturally as possible. It’s wonderful to see the “results” of my grandfather’s life (3 grown children, 7 grandchildren, and now 3 great-grand children), to hear the stories, and to feel the love and care in the house. The beautiful surroundings, the peace of nature, and friendliness of neighbors really adds to it as well.
I said good-bye to my other grandfather about a year and a half ago, and now it’s time for the other one. Both of them were big role models and influences on who I’ve become. Their quiet confidence, their positive take on things, their patience and acceptance, their dedication, and their life are all things I aspire to. As I’ve sat by each of their beds I’ve marveled at the life they built over the years and hope that when one of my grandchildren is sitting by my bed they’ll look at me with that same admiration for a life well lived.