I looked at the frail form lying so still on the hospital bed. Tears threatened to fall. I blinked them back, but they wouldn’t have it. I let them come. This was it – time to say my last goodbye to my dear, dear grandad.
I held his hand, savouring the life still there. I like to think he knew I was by his bedside, even though his eyes were clasped shut as if they’d never open again and there was a hollowness to his cheeks where life was seeping out. I hope he knew that I wouldn’t let him go without saying goodbye.
I told him that I loved him and that I always would. At the age of 93 he’d told me to make sure I never grew up. ‘Life is too short,’ he always said, ‘you have to enjoy it, savour every moment of it, have fun and always remember to laugh.’
I’d rung him every day for years. One of us always said something to make the other laugh. How I’d miss that daily phone call.
Though I’d have plenty of warm memories – of Grandad letting me eat the skin from the top of the custard even though it was his favourite, of being allowed to spend hours in his tool shed banging and bashing about and watching him make up the fire on a cold winter’s day.
We became even closer when my adult years came. He was so proud of me when I took a job at a local bank and that proudness was reflected in his eyes when he held his granddaughter in his arms for the first time.
As I looked down at that hospital bed, I promised Grandad that I’d never forget him and that I’d never grow up. I promised him that I’d enjoy life, savour every moment of it, have fun and always remember to laugh. I let go of his hand and my heart felt as if it would break. I pushed the chair back and stood up, my entire being fighting against the urge to stay, to not let him go. My legs found movement and I walked towards the door.
I turned back, my heart in my mouth and my breathing raw and ragged. ‘Goodbye, Grandad, goodbye,’ I whispered.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to carry out those promises. I didn’t feel as if life would ever be the same again.
But time heals. The world moves on. Twelve years later and my promise has been firmly kept. My nineteen-year-old daughter rolls her eyes at me, but I keep urging her to follow Grandad’s advice. Somewhere, I’m sure he’s doing the very same.