Goodbye Grandpa: Doing the right thing vs. doing the easy thing when a loved one is dying
I have three kids. 17, 15 and 12 and this month has been one of the, if not the, most difficult months of my parenting history. For the past 17 years, I have taught my kids how to handle difficult situations. From playground spats to breakups with boyfriends, I seemed to be handling it well. That is, until two weeks ago when I was thrown for a loop. My father-in-law, who lives in New York (we live in MN), was admitted into the ICU for an infection. He was 84 and had gone to a clinic for kidney dialysis. He came out with MRSA , a staff infection that is highly resistant to antibiotics. With only two weeks left of the school year, I knew it wasn't an ideal time to pack up my kids and fly them half way across the country. It was also going to be expensive AND MRSA is contagious. So, I had three major hurdles to plow through. But, I love my father-in-law and my kids grandfather is really sick. What did I want to teach my kids?
He went into the hospital on Wednesday. I went online to search flights to leave on Friday after school. I found a flight that would leave MN at 7pm and get us into NY at 11:30 pm. By the time we would get to sleep it would be after 1am. We would spend all day Saturday with him and the fly back Sunday morning to get home in time to do some homework and then be back at school Monday morning. The airport is a 1.5 hour drive for us both in MN and NY. Sounds exhausting right? But, I love my father-in-law and my kids grandfather is really sick. What did I want to teach my kids?
Then, there was the cost. 5 people at at around $300-$500 per person. Cha Ching! But, I love my father-in-law and my kids grandfather is really sick. What did I want to teach my kids?
So, I booked it. I did it. I took three kids round trip to NY for under 48 hours (my husband stayed in NY). The kids had a great visit with "Papi." While he was weak and wearing an oxygen mask, he was able to communicate with them. They showed him pictures on their iPad and he even asked my daughter "who's the boy?" in the prom picture. Upon my return, I felt good that we had taken them. We did the right thing. That night (Sunday) I was sitting in our living room with our very stoic son who, with tears in his eyes, said "I was just holding his hand. I want to see him again. I want to go back." My heart sank and I knew in that moment , we had to go back. It was the right thing to do. More money, more inconvenience, but, I love my father-in-law and my kids' grandfather is really sick. What did I want to teach my kids?
So, I booked us all one way tickets to NY on Monday. I emailed all of the kids' teachers (yes, all 21 of them) explaining the situation and letting them know I was unsure about when we would be back in MN. I also emailed their school counselor asking for her support. The teachers were all very understanding and supportive. I also cancelled all of my classes (I'm a yoga teacher), cancelled all extra curricular activities, notified the moms in my carpool group that I was leaving for most likely the next week, and hired a pet/house sitter. Within 24 hours we were back at the MSP airport.
My kids grandfather was really sick. I knew what I wanted to teach my kids....
1. Doing the right thing is more important than doing the easy thing! "We mistakenly assume that each choice we make, and each individual action we make, is only affecting that particular moment, or circumstance." It's not the school we missed, the charges on our credits cards, the inconvenience..those are temporary problems. The choice to say yes to what's right...spending time with someone who loved you and those you love, is the ultimate key to happiness.
2. The definition of LOVE : That condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own -Robert A. Heinlein. The Dalai Lama teaches this lesson in his book The Art of Happiness. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter.
3. Your family is the best team you have- We are a unit, a support system. We have eachother's backs. We rally behind each other when one , or all of us, are struggling. We put our phones down and tune in to what's going on around us. And, family is the structure of happiness. It is the journey leading us to feel satisfied and connected, filling our days with purpose and joy. Always remember there are people who love you, need you, count on you, encourage and trust you. If you can rely on your family, your "support team" , everything you do will be easier.
My father in law was an incredible man. He lived his life selflessly.
"Ivan's life was defined by courage, strength and resilience. First as a European Jewish Holocaust survivor, later as an escaped refugee from Communism to America, his story shaped not only his life, but also the history of a generation." -Yvette Panno
On his last day of life, I promised him I would take care of his son and his grandchildren. I promised to myself I would always (at least try to) do the right thing.