by Brandon Clogston
This summer I saw a man die. The man was my grandfather, Herbert Reese Haskins and it was pancreatic cancer that took his life.
I had never witnessed another human being take their last breath until that August morning at 2:04. I remember it so clearly as I sat with my uncles Scott and Jim, my Aunt Sharon and my mother. We were gathered around a hospital-style bed that was set up in his living room so that he could die at his home instead of in a bleached clean hospital.
While I sat and talked with my uncles about the differences in Harley-Davidson body styles, my grandfather’s breathing began to fade and grow less labored as if his body were finally grinding to a halt after six days of being in a coma.
Each breath taken by my grandfather became shallower than the one before and during each long pause until the next breath, we would look at each other and wonder if it was his last. When the last breath finally did come, it brought with it a gargling sound that was as aggressive as any other that had come before. It bubbled in the back of his throat, trying desperately to break through and breathe the air just one more time but it wasn’t meant to be.
My Aunt Sharon, a registered nurse with over 20 years experience, had said earlier in the night that she would be amazed if “Dad” made it past 2 a.m. As if just to prove her right and again disappoint the hospice nurses that had been coming to the house and offering their care and support, he finally let go with her sitting nearby on another bed set up in the living room.
It wasn’t easy for those of us awake to come to terms with the event. I had seen him battling for four of the six days he had spent in the coma, and although I was relieved to see him give up, I was saddened by his passing.
And then immediately I thought of my grandmother.
When my Uncle Jim woke her up, she came out of her back bedroom and with her eyes welled up. Ready to flood with tears, she asked if he was gone. My Uncle Scott piped up and told her that he had gone peacefully and that he wasn’t suffering anymore but to her it was far greater.
My grandmother, the love of my grandfather’s life since the two of them were in high school in Lindsborg, Kan., was going to be alone for the first time since she was 16 years old.
She’s only 64 years old now and it doesn’t seem fair for her to have lost her husband this early. It doesn’t seem fair for all of our family to have lost a son, brother, uncle, father, grandfather or great-grandfather.
But, like all the times before when death has come to claim a loved one, our family must carry on with our lives as we had before.
And just as my family must carry on, I feel that we as students we must carefully watch our lives develop and always remember what it feels like to lose someone close to us. We have to live our lives to the fullest potential while we can and we should be thankful for every breath we take. Life is precious. If we don’t enjoy it, we may never live to regret not doing so. It will be too late.