Two years ago today, my Grandfather passed away from battling metastatic bladder cancer. Even to this day, I can’t comprehend any of this. Most days, I feel like this is all a complete nightmare. Yet, I try my best to block this out because I can’t handle it at all. Seeing my Grandmother heartbroken is unbearable.
My Grandfather John was an amazing man. Not only did he know everyone around town, but he was a kind hearted person. He would do anything for you, especially for his family. My Grandfather was also very religious. He was always faithful to god. Even if he had a cold, he would attend church on Sundays. My Grandfather never missed church until he got very sick. Every Sunday my Grandfather would say to my sister’s and I “come to church with us, I will treat you to breakfast after.” Most of the time I would decline. But there were times that I would go just to make him smile. I loved his smile and I loved the way he danced.
For my entire life, my Grandparent’s lived around the corner from my house. I loved every moment of it. I cherish those memories. I really do. Especially all the holidays that my Grandparent’s would host. From birthdays to Father’s day, Mother’s day, cookie day, and stocking stuffers. Such great memories. It is so hard to celebrate a holiday or a birthday without him. Of course papa wouldn’t want us to be so sad but its just not so easy. Life just moves on and it’s just not fair that he is not here.
The day I found out I had cancer was also the day I saw my Grandfather cry for the first time in my life. I remember both of my Grandparent’s being in my parent’s kitchen. As I was telling everyone the news I remember my grandfather shaking his head. Tears streamed down his face as he started to approach me to give me a hug. ” You’re going to be okay, you hear me. Have faith”. All I said was “Yep”. I remember this day clearly. At that moment, that’s all I could say. What else was there to say.
Weeks later, we found out that my Grandfather’s cancer had returned. He ended up back in the hospital. During this time there was a lot of confusion for me because I was still juggling my cancer diagnosis. Most of it is a blur. What I do remember is that in the summer of August 2012, Papa asked me to go to a special “healing mass” with him. Of course I said yes. Before we went into the church my Grandfather wanted to say a prayer by Padre Pio. For some reason ( I have no idea why) I had my camera on me and I happen to just capture a beautiful photo of my grandfather. I love this photo dearly. This photo means everything to me for many different reasons.
During mass Papa and I received a blanket and a prayer book. After mass was over I went back to my Grandparent’s house and the three of us sat on their porch. My Grandfather wanted to read the “prayers” out loud. Continuously he would say “make sure you read this book faithfully everyday now.” I said okay even though he knew deep down I am not religious. He also knew I was not going to read it. I tried to open the booklet a few times but I couldn’t. I am glad I went to church with my Grandparent’s. My Grandfather was so happy I was there.
December 2012, My Grandfather started aggressive chemo while I was completing my radiation treatment in NYC. Unfortunately, I had to be isolated for 4 weeks so I was not home because my niece was around. I had to stay away from everyone since I was “radioactive”. My Grandfather and I spoke everyday while I was staying at the Hope Lodge in New York City. It was nice to hear his voice every night but very hard for me since I wasn’t able to be there for him. We understood each other because we were going through the same side effects. Exhaustion, nausea, fatigue, and loss of appetite. But each night, before he hung up the phone he said ” WE ARE GOING TO BE FINE”. I tried so hard to believe his words.
A few days before Christmas, I was finally able to come home after being away for 4 weeks. I missed everyone, especially my Grandfather. Christmas Eve, I begged him to take a picture with me. Finally, he gave in and said yes! I wasn’t radioactive anymore but I didn’t want to risk it being that he was still on chemo. So instead of squeezing him, I stood behind him. This photo means so much to me because I finally saw him after being away from home. Not only that, this happens to be the last photo that was ever taken of him. It was also his last Christmas Eve.
My Grandfather will always be with me. There is never a minute that goes by that I dont think of him. I often have “survivor’s guilt” because he is heaven and I am “here”. It kills me. The thought still haunts me till this day. I get the fact that life isn’t fair but this just sucks. I don’t think I will ever get over this. It kills me to see my Grandmother so heartbroken. Life without my Grandfather is a daily battle for all of us. We try to keep up the with traditions but deep down it is just so hard. Cookie day is no longer cookie day where we would all get together and go to my Grandparent’s house and bake a ton of cookies all day and night before Christmas. It was tons of fun. I loved every moment. You try to move on but you just can’t. How can you?
Throughout this journey, while we shared a special bond together, he was the one that kept it all together for me. Papa always said to me “WE ARE GOING TO BE FINE.” I believed it until the very end. Seeing him take his last breath shattered me. I loved being there with him everyday, especially towards the end of his life. Seeing him gasp for air was so unbearable for me. I couldn’t keep it together. I was not prepared for this at all. This was extremely hard on me. No one is prepared for this but, mentally and physically, I don’t think that I should of been present.
I can’t believe it has been two years since you left this world Papa. I love you dearly and I miss you more than anything. You would be proud, as I have been spreading so much awareness. I hope to god there is a cure one day. For all of us. Most of all, I know that you are pain free. I hope you having a blast with your parent’s and your brother’s.
As you always said, ” There’s nothing like family.”
I love you! I wish you would come back….
© 2015 Danielle Nicosia