Thoughts by Emily

A Death On Christmas

A Death On Christmas

It feels like Christmas happened so long ago, and I almost wish that I could have a Christmas week redo. It’s been a very busy week, and I feel as though I’ve hardly spent any time with my kids. With that being said, I can say with surety that my grandpa is in a better place. Having a 92 year old body that didn’t work right was difficult for my grandpa. When a person gets to a certain age, and a certain state, it isn’t a shock to the family when their time comes. However, that time can still be difficult to face.

I thought I would tell you a bit about what I went through with my grandpa’s death. A month ago, there is no way I would have predicted for things to go down the way they did. Up until two weeks ago, my grandpa was still doing a lot of things by himself. He still had my grandma, 93, and aside from driving, they did a lot for themselves. Grandpa was getting weaker by the day. My mom and dad had planned to fly to Pennsylvania (and New York), to spend Christmas with my brother’s family. They were due to be gone for just over a week. The day before they were scheduled to leave, they toyed with not going, because my grandparents weren’t doing quite as well. With my grandparent’s encouragement, they decided to go. Hospice and the care facility where my grandparents live were given my phone number, in case of emergency. I am the only other family member in town, to help my grandparents should the need arise. I do have a sister an hour away, but sometimes that’s not close enough.

(Photo taken the Wednesday before Christmas, by another resident of my grandparent’s assisted living place)

The day after my parents left, I got a call from hospice. The gal told me that she thought my grandpa had several mini strokes and that it was time he be moved to the more skilled nursing facility. No beds were available, so I was to sit with my grandparents, around the clock, until a bed became available. There was no telling how long that would take. My husband was out of town until late that night, so I called my babysitter and enlisted her for a looong day. Around lunchtime, I went to my grandparent’s place, and hung out with them. During lunch, I thought my grandpa was actually doing okay. He could still feed himself, and speak a little. By the end of lunch, he started falling asleep while eating. When back in his apartment, my grandpa was continuing to fall asleep while eating. I would have to wake him up and remind him to chew and swallow. He had a bad cough too, so I kept getting afraid that he would choke. It was very nerve racking. That evening, a bed became available, so I had to make the move. He was asleep most of the day, so I was a bit nervous of how I was going to do this. He didn’t want to be moved, but it needed to happen. The facility he was in, was not giving him good care. They didn’t check on him once all day, while I was there. They were supposed to be helping him get oxygen on, and make sure he had the emergency pull cord, which they didn’t do.

The move happened that night, and I was able to get grandpa all settled in his new place. Luckily the place was right next door to their other place, so grandma could walk over to visit him. This all happened the Wednesday before Christmas. My sister came up Thursday, to take a shift. My aunt flew into town on Friday, to help keep watch over my grandparents. For a few days, I was able to rest knowing that all of the responsibility was not on me.

On Christmas Eve, my aunt called me to tell me that my grandpa was doing worse. I decided to pay him a visit, all by myself. He could say a few words, but most everything was “uh huh, or uh uh”. He squeezed my hand, and seemed to really like that I was there with him. I feared he wouldn’t make it through the night, so I called my mom to tell her. She decided to book a flight home on Christmas. As I sat with my grandpa, and just watched his chest rise and fall with every breath (he had a full oxygen mask by this point), I felt a comforting peace come over me. This particular feeling is different than any other feeling, because my breath is taken away. I have had this feeling come over me a few times since my sweet baby Gianna died. I know without a doubt that it is my baby girl making her presence known to me. I felt like she was there with my in that room, watching over my grandpa during his last days. I asked her to take him quickly so that he wouldn’t have to suffer. I believe that she is on the other side watching over us, and that she would be there to greet my grandfather when he passed.

My aunt showed up to relieve me so that I could finish spending Christmas Eve with my family. Christmas morning came and went, as did the gifts. Late morning, my sister and I went to sit with my grandpa. He didn’t look or sound good. Very gurgly breathing, and we didn’t feel we could leave his side. I felt like the time was very close, and I didn’t want him to die alone. Christmas dinner went on without us. He couldn’t speak at all, but I feel he knew we were there. He squeezed our hands, and shrugged his shoulder when my sister moved her hand off of it. He seemed to like having our hands on his shoulders, and our other hands in his. We just let him know that we were there, and that my mom was trying her best to get back.¬†After about 2 hours of sitting with grandpa, his last breaths came. My sister had stepped out of the room for a bit when my brother-in-law arrived. When he walked in the room, my grandpa’s breaths started to slow, and have more space in between each one. I almost wonder if he thought my mom had finally arrived, and that he felt like it was okay to go. My mom tried so hard to make it back in time. I asked my brother-in-law to text my sister and tell her to come – fast. I knew it wouldn’t be long now. I anxiously watched his throat and chest, with each breath, thinking that each one may be his last. It seemed like so much time would pass between breaths. After a few minutes, and the angst that comes with watching someone’s last breaths, he was gone.

Being with my grandpa when he died was much harder on me than I thought it would be. I knew his time had come, so I don’t struggle with that so much. The hard part was watching him waste away the way he did. Then there was the overwhelming and draining experience I had, immediately following his death. I was overcome with emotion, as I felt like I was almost a witness to my grandpa’s sweet reunion with loved ones. I believe it was my little angel who let me witness this, as she may have been the one to pull my grandpa’s spirit to the other side. I realize you all may have different beliefs about what goes on after we die. I don’t know everything that happens, but I definitely felt my grandpa’s spirit feel happiness, and relief. I felt like he was greeted by loved ones who have passed on before him. While I feel very blessed to have had this experience, it almost felt like I had to lose my baby all over again. I have now sent two loved ones off to the other side. So many emotions that go into the death of a loved one.

Next you can read about my grandpa’s beautiful funeral service.

About the author

Emily Buys


  • I so sorry you had to go thru this and also happy you were by his side. I know it made him feel better about his passing. I also hope it helps you too. I have had many family members pass but only one where i was aware of it happening. I am glad i was there and that my great grandmother passed in my arms. I am praying for you and yours.

  • Thank you for writing it down. I know it was hard, but i’m glad it’s there. I hope you know how grateful I am for being my proxy. You’re a treasure.

  • I am so very sorry for your loss. No matter what the age or circumstances, it always hurts to lose someone we love. Your post also lead me to the story of losing your baby girl. As I read through each post, it just broke my heart! As a mother of 3, losing a child has always been my greatest fear. I simply can not imagine a worse pain. I am always amazed when I meet someone that has lost a child and they are able to go on afterward. I know that likely sounds odd because what choice do you have when there are other children to care for. You are a very strong and brave woman! The way I see it, you have already gone through the most horrific experience a parent possibly could and I don’t think it gets any worse than that. Having that sort of perspective should make some of us ashamed for whining or complaining about the little problems in life! Thank you for sharing your story as I am sure it must have been difficult to put it out there. Take care. X0

  • I’m so very sorry for your loss! How is your grandma handling your grandfather’s passing? I hope 2013 brings better things to you and your family!

  • Emily, the photo of you with your grandparents is beautiful. What a treasure to have. I hope you, your grandmother and all your family will be comforted by all the wonderful memories of your dear grandfather.

  • I also was there when my grandma took her last breaths. Your grandpa was so lucky he didn’t have to die alone. I work in a facility and have found a few people deceased. So sad they didn’t have loved ones with them when they passed. However, sometimes you just never know.

  • Unfortunately we don’t have a crystal ball that tells us when these things will happen huh? I felt like his time was close, so I didn’t want to leave.

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