ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

He Did Not Die Alone

Updated on August 4, 2012

I've spent the past week going through WWII-era memorabilia from my grandfather. He died about 25 years ago, but this is the first time I'm looking in detail at some of the things he left behind: a pipe collection, old coins, a gold pocket watch, army dog tags, etc.

And, the memory of the day of his death returns.

You've heard the saying that everyone dies alone, but not my grandpa. I was there with him, holding his hand, the two of us alone, but together.

The Last Day

My husband and another couple had just returned from Cancun. I called my mother from Salt Lake City, 5 hours from home in Boise, Idaho. I then got the news that Grandpa had suffered at least one stroke, was in the hospital, and was unconscious. Rather than spending the night in SLC as planned, we left for Boise immediately. The fun from the trip was completely gone - the mood in the car somber.

I asked to be dropped off directly at the hospital, the other three headed home.

I'm so glad I went directly to him, since it's unlikely that he would have survived another day.

What I Found at the Hospital

The only person at the hospital was my grandmother, very distraught. I went immediately to Grandpa's room and found him laying in a bed, unconscious, hooked up to all kinds of medical apparatus including a breathing tube. I was told that he was in a coma.

Having read that some coma patients can hear, I choked back the tears, held his hand in mine, and told him all about our trip. I was surprised when he squeezed my hand at seemingly appropriate times, like when I mentioned something funny or asked him a question. I was reassured that he was hearing me and that I could encourage him back into consciousness.

The All-Knowing Doctors

While I was still talking to him, the news was delivered to my grandmother that he had little to no brain activity, would probably never wake from the coma, and if he did, would have extensive brain damage.

I had a hard time believing this since I felt that he and I had been having some kind of conversation.

To my amazement, my sweet, patient, loving grandmother threw her hands up in the air and stated adamantly, "Pull the plug! Pull the plug! He would never want to live this way. Pull the plug!" I loved my grandmother dearly, but at the time, I stared at her like she was an alien. I asked her, didn't she want a second opinion? The doctor said he had consulted with another doctor on the results. She kept repeating, "Pull the plug!"

I said to the doctor, "But he's squeezing my hand at appropriate times, I'm pretty sure he can hear me!" I was told this was a normal reflexive muscle movement and did not represent cognition. I didn't really buy that, but I had no medical training.

Where are the Reinforcements?

I quickly headed for the nurses' station phone and called first my mother who lived locally and was at work, then my aunt who lived in New York (my grandparents' two children). I was looking for some kind of back-up, some kind of delay, someone to reason with my grandmother, but what I got was reassurance that he had always been very clear on this subject, that he did not want to ever be a burden on anyone, and these were his final wishes.

I was in real disbelief. My thinking at the time was that, just because someone says that when they're alive and healthy, doesn't mean they would wish the same when they were clinging to life. And, I hadn't been in the hospital long enough to be assured that all heroic measures had been taken or how the doctors had come to their conclusion.

But, legally, my grandma had the final say, and she seemed to have no hesitancy at all.

Pulling the Plug

Shortly thereafter, I was asked to leave my grandfather's room so that all the tubes could be removed. I had a last hope that maybe he'd snap out of it and surprise us all. When the nurses were done, I was allowed back into the room. My grandmother didn't want to be there. So, it was he and I alone, yet together, again.

I begged him, politely (as I still held great respect for him), to not die, to please live, that I would miss him, and that I loved him so much - and he continued to squeeze my hand when I said these things. I was sure he heard me.

I kept talking to him until he quit squeezing my hand and quit breathing.

The nurses and a doctor finally came in, said he was gone, and asked me to leave the room.

Sad But Satisfied

In the lobby, I hugged my grandmother and told her he was gone. We both cried and cried. She kept repeating, "That's the way he would have wanted it." I called my mother and aunt back and told them also.

I don't remember much after that. I'm sure arrangements were made and everyone else stepped in to help at that point. I just went home and thought about my grandfather and how he had played such a wonderful role in my life - instilling in me self-esteem and being a good male role model. I remembered all the little things he used to say like, "You make that dress look very fine," and how he used to sing, "I like bananas, because they have no bones, and, how he'd make me jump with a cold can of soda touched to my bare back in the summer.

I've never felt anything spiritual about the moment he died - I've never felt him watching over me, but I do often stumble across memories of our times together that make me smile.

Although I didn't help with any of the funeral arrangements, I feel satisfied that I played, what I felt, was the most important role of all - being with him when he died. He did not die alone.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • LucyLiu12 profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Young 

      6 years ago from Boise

      Yes, I do feel fortunate to have known him. He was a real stabilizing influence in my life.

    • rajath pai profile image

      Rajath Pai 

      6 years ago from Bangalore, India

      it is always sad when you lose someone you so dearly love and what with euthanasia being a touchy and volatile matter, I'm sure it would have been very difficult for you. But, I hope you find solace in the fact that you knew your grandfather (I've only seen one of my grandparents) and that he had an interesting life is always a bonus, isn't it? Kudos on being so brave to write this down :)

    • LucyLiu12 profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Young 

      6 years ago from Boise

      Thank you for your kind words.

    • toknowinfo profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I am sorry you had to go through this, yet I am glad you had such a special moment with him at the end. When all is said and done, it is our actions and memories that we are left, with. I hope always, you find great comfort from your actions and your memories.

    • LucyLiu12 profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Young 

      6 years ago from Boise

      That's a good perspective for me - I was really lucky to spend time with him from age 10.

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 

      6 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      You are so lucky to have happy memories of your grandfather to cherish. I never got to know either of my grandfathers. My dad's father died the year I was born and my mom lost her dad when she was young. Mom's step-dad was the closest thing to a grandfather I had. I'm thankful for knowing him. Good hub.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)