Hannah Duminske (Being Brave)
The day was grim, much like everyone around me. The room we stood in was lit by disorienting fluorescent lights. We stared at the greenish yellow glare the lights gave off the white walls. It felt as though at any moment they would suck us into an abyss, and if they didn’t, they were going to close in on all of us who stood in the room, crushing us to pieces.
“It’s cancer,” the doctor said in his monotone voice as he stood in the doorway.
The news made us shiver just like the unbearable cold outside had done as we entered this wretched place just moments ago. However, that wasn’t the end of what he had to say about the diagnosis of my grandfather who laid on the bed unaware of the monster called cancer taking over his body. The doctor went on. He explained how it was stage four and that there was nothing they could do to help him at this point because treatment would just cause more harm than good.
“Nothing you can do?” I wanted to scream out, but I held my tongue.
I knew that this was the reality of cancer. It was anything but pretty. It was a dark and scary thing, in this case with a set outcome, death; however, when it would come was unknown. Although those hospital walls didn’t crush us, this news surely did.
The doctor exited the room and you could see the sorrow on everyone’s faces. The beeping of the monitors seemed to make everything worse. Beep, beep, beep. It felt as though they were getting louder every time. I looked at the labyrinth of wires and IVs all connected to my grandfather and felt a pit form in my stomach. Then I looked at my family. All of us together in one room was so rare and I couldn’t let this go unnoticed. So, I tried to lighten the mood. I cracked a few jokes and shared my love for them. Smiles grew on their faces. I couldn’t let this pain shrink me. I had to be there for them and I knew that I had to grow from this experience.
The months leading up to the end of my grandpa’s battle with cancer were difficult. It included many visits and dinners at my grandparents. My grandpa after that day in the hospital lived at home and received hospice care. We did that so that he would be able to stay in his own home for his remaining time rather than having to stay in the prison-like hospital. We figured that would be most comfortable for him.
I remember sitting at his bedside, holding onto his cold hands. They were tinted a pale blue from being under-oxygenated. I looked at him and he smiled. As we sat and talked you could hear the choppiness in our sentences and the uneasiness in our tone. My voice was uneasy because I could hardly hold back that quiver you get in your voice when you’re trying to hold back tears. His was that way because of his state of health. But, we understood each other and got each other like we always had before. This moment in time took the most bravery of all. I can still feel the unsettledness of my stomach and lump in my throat as I talked to him and heard some of the last things he would ever say to me.
As we got closer to March we knew the days with my grandpa were numbered. You could see it in the way he looked. His eyes no longer sparkled; instead, they looked as though life had already escaped his body. His cheekbones protruded out of his face and his cheeks sunk in. They always say to remember people the way they were and looked before they fall ill. However, it’s hard when you cannot erase what you have seen from your mind.
Through these months, I never shed a tear. Not in front of anyone that is. I wanted to comfort my family. Although I was young, I still knew that the way I acted would impact the people around me. It’s hard to be brave and no, holding feelings in isn’t always the best thing to do, but in this situation I think it helped.
Spring seemed to be on the horizon. We had been longing for it all winter. The air was still crisp, but the earth was thawing out. Spring is known for renewal and rebirth. However, my grandpa’s health was going in the opposite direction.
The call came on the 16th of March. The sun was shining and the birds were chirping. But, no amount of sunshine could bring us happiness that day. My mother was the one to receive the call.
“No!” she cried out as the person on the other line spoke to her.
She wept and wept. Although I hadn’t heard what that person said, I still knew what happened. I put my arms around her and held her gently. I tried to be strong for her. I always thought of my mother as being the one who should comfort me, but I knew that it had to be the other way around.
“It will be okay,” I reassured her over and over again.
Once she was calmed down enough, we got into the car and went to my grandparent’s house. As we entered, the feeling of despair hit us like a train. We walked into the eerie room where he once laid. The emptiness was almost haunting. For the rest of the day, everyone stayed out of that room. We all crammed into the tiny kitchen instead. I comforted many of my other family members.
I knew that once again I couldn’t shrink from the pain put on me. So, I decided to celebrate my grandfather’s life. I began to bring up some of my favorite memories of him. Once I began doing this everyone else started telling their favorites as well. Before you knew it, we were all smiling and crying from laughter. I figured that we should remember him for the good things such as his jokes, his laughter, and his kindness. This man knew how to brighten up any room he walked into. We couldn’t let the tragedy cancer caused bring us down forever. I knew that he wouldn’t want us to feel that way anyways. He would’ve wanted us to celebrate and appreciate the life that he did have.
Bravery can be truly hard to have at times. When life hands you a situation that is awful and painful you just want to give in and let it defeat you. Then, sometimes life hands you a situation that hurts not only you, but the loved ones around you. That is when you realize that being brave isn’t something you only do for yourself. There come times when you must be brave for others, because in that moment they may need you to have that courage for them more than anything else.