Death and dancing…

Some say I’d probably go to hell for not remembering what day this was on a calendar, but screw them. I had recently opened my restaurant and was still in the midst of getting my ass handed to me every day by unruly customers expecting five star service, new employees (they were good, but we were all new), and a plethora of vendors and charity seekers that would not let off. Though I don’t know the day, I remember the events as if they happened five minutes ago.

My Grandma Helen was in extremely poor health and was due to check out any time. She was in and out of the hospital from the care facility and was essentially lost in this world since my Grandpa had passed away several months before. Their house was sitting empty just waiting for the bank to take their claim since the rest of the family seemed to not have a solution to save it. I guess these reverse mortgages aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

This particular day I was slammed. (Relatively). My sister was supposed to come in and help while I trained some new employees how things operated. She didn’t show up and I was so busy that I barely had time to step away to call and find out why. Back in the kitchen I saw a call from the sister, then my dad, then a text from the sister again. ‘You need to call right now.’ I knew right then that things were not good. I told the employees that we would close early and that everyone in the restaurant would get their food and we’d regretfully turn away any new customers.

I stalled on calling back because I knew what was happening. Grandma had a living will to not be put on life support if anything should happen. Being busy and flustered caused some meals to come out late and/or incorrect. I remember a couple asking for my presence so they could tell me how shitty their experience was. My response, “I’m sorry, my family is about to fall apart because my grandma is dying right now and is on life support. So as soon as you’re done eating I’m going to go see her before she dies…”

People generally made an expedient move towards the end of their meals and gracefully exited without any further commotion. People can be so rude.

My family thinks less of me because of what I chose to do next. Before being hit with the grim news, I was planning on doing some dancing that night. I was actually going for an initial interview to teach at a studio. I went home after I closed the restaurant and changed into some slacks and dress shirt and threw on the Harley jacket and half helmet. Along with a backpack of essentials and my dance shoes, I hauled ass to the hospital.

I finally arrived and did not give one shit about seeing anyone there except my grandma and my dad. He was a complete wreck. Not only is he battling cancer, he recently lost his father and now his mother was on her way out. He rode with me on the elevator to see her and he broke down. It’s quite possibly the shittiest feeling in the world when the strongest man you ever know can barely stand on his own two feet because of the extreme grief he is feeling. We held each other all the way.

He had already made peace with her so I was guided to her room where she sat upright on the life support machines. Her body was dead but she had not left yet. My uncle was in there with my sister, holding her and telling her it was going to be ok. It was right before I walked in that they pulled the plug. She was declared deceased but because of the way our bodies work she would have a spasm and take a deep breath in and twitch slightly. I had no need to look in her eyes anymore. I held her hand and closed my eyes. She was still warm, but definitely losing all signs of life as each second went on.

Everyone else left the room and I stayed holding her hand. I rested my forehead on my hand which was wrapped around her hand. I thanked her for everything she was to all of us and told her I was happy that her suffering was over. I those last few minutes as her body twitched more, her hand lifted and she pointed towards the door. There was one final breath and I could tell she finally left. This was no divine moment, it was simply the truth about what I feel. Her soul finally departed. I was flooded with the overwhelming sensation that there is absolutely no reason to be in that hospital anymore. She was gone and she sure as hell wouldn’t want anyone else to stand around moping anymore. Mourning should not take place in such a sterile environment as that.

I won’t discuss too much of the family issue right now but this entire event wasn’t for her,. It was for the greed and pride of everyone else left behind. I’ve always hated the drama and backstabbing within the family. As I walked out, my uncle tried to console me. I shrugged away. I walked towards my dad, gave him a hug and said “she’s gone, and we should all go too.”

I grabbed my helmet and jacket from my mom and proceeded to walk out the door. A few of them tried to tell me I shouldn’t ride in my condition and that I’m being stupid. Once again, it was about them being right and forgetting an important lesson. A hard as it was for me to contain the tears, I felt stronger than I had in a long time.

It’s almost impossible not to mourn the death of a loved one, but I am a firm believer that someone’s life should be celebrated and their legacy should be continued on as they would want us to live life. My grandma was the rock of the family. She held no grudges and did not take any bull from any of ’em. Ultimately her death was the catalyst to the family losing any sign of solidarity. To each their own.

I was followed out by a few family members hell bent on keeping me there. I got on my Harley and started the ride to Bellevue. I won’t lie, it was hard to keep my composure but I felt an amazing feeling of freedom. It felt as if my grandma told me to go and live life. The way I felt. I could almost hear the words as she would say it in my head. ‘Who cares what other people think, do what you love…’

The interview went well and I really didn’t get much chance to dance but that was ok. Ultimately I had to turn down an offer simply because my restaurant schedule took precedence and would not allow me to dedicate the time needed to teach dance.

The aftermath of my grandma’s death is something that doesn’t deserve much time in this blog. The family acted ridiculous and it’s sickening that bygones aren’t ever really bygones.

We can’t get caught up with sadness and hopelessness in life. Death and despair is inevitable in each of our lives but there’s something more important to the story than our simple little lives we live. There’s a fire inside us that guides the way for others and keeps them warm and safe while they are in trouble. God or no god, we have to have faith that there’s something bigger than us. Our existence can’t simply be for what we experience and nothing more. When I felt my grandma leave, there was substance to it. Se was going somewhere and I could feel a brightness to it. Maybe it was simply inside me, and the only way I could express it is to say that it was her going to a better place. Truth is, her life and her soul put so many of us in a better place. Whether or not certain family members will truly understands that and get over themselves is up to them. My final question to this is, ‘why can’t the rest of us do the same for others?’


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