Mom called me on Saturday to let me know that he'd had a stroke and was in the hospital. I got to call and tell him I loved him and goodbye, and this afternoon he passed away.
It was a pretty serious stroke, and they could tell pretty early that he wasn't likely to make it, so there were no heroic measures or anything. Apparently he had a living will that said things like "if I can no longer ask for a martini, you should assume I won't recover." But everyone in the family who was in New England came down to be with him, and Mom & I got to talk to him on the phone. He couldn't talk or anything, but my uncle tells me he could hear, because he would squeeze people's hands when they spoke to him.
I gather, except for the big negative of my grandfather dying, it was otherwise a positive experience. They had really caring and supportive hospital staff, and he was on a morphine drip, so they knew he wasn't in pain or anything. And the Episcopal priest(ess) who came to do extreme unction was really nice, and it was about as good a passing as you could expect, it sounds like.
I won't be able to go to the memorial service in two weeks, because I'll be at one of my best friend from high school's wedding, but we'll need to scatter his ashes in several different places (with my grandmother on Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, in the ocean, at the ski area (Catamount) where he did ski patrol every year), and as I said to my Mom, for that side of the family, that actually seems more important than a ceremony at a church. Everyone says he would rather I be at a wedding than a funeral anyway.
My Grandpa Roy was 86. He went kayaking yesterday and the day before, and had just recently decided that this was the first year he wouldn't do ski patrol. He had a small stroke a few years ago, but had recovered pretty well from it. He had a sailboat for many years, and I have lots of fond memories of sailing when we would go out to Connecticut in my childhood. He fought in WWII, in the European theater, and I think he was at both Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge.
The one war story I know: apparently, he once took some shrapnel from a grenade, and when the medics found him, he was covered, head to toe, in blood. They thought "oh, we're not going to save this guy", but they started cleaning him up... and cleaning, and cleaning... and eventually discovered that all he had was a cut on his head. (This is the story I tell as an example of "scalp wounds bleed a LOT".)
At my Ph.D. graduation party, we were sitting around talking, and when I told about the time I poured rubbing alcohol on the wood-burning stove because I wondered what would happen to a liquid that had a lower suface tension than water and managed to produce a six-foot tall blue flame (very short-lived, fortunately), I got to hear my mother's story about coming to dinner with a burned hand from lighting pools of perfume on fire in her bedroom and Grandpa Roy's story about the time, at age 8 or so, when he and a bunch of neighbor kids were playing with gunpowder and paint or some such and set the little canvas tent they were in on fire, and escaped out the back of it on the opposite side from all the grownups who didn't see them and were convinced their children had just perished in a fiery blaze.
I'll miss him, but he had a long, full life, and died in peace and surrounded by loving family. You can't really ask for more than that. It still sucks, but what can ya do?
I'm doing fine. I'm sad, of course, and I'm going to get together with Mom this week and we'll hug and cry, but there's a lot more wistfulness than grief. And this side of my family, just because we're mourning doesn't mean we can't still smile, you know?
But I really wouldn't mind if the Universe decided to hold off on giving me any more practice with funerals for a while, though...