Saying goodbye to Nonno

Jenna and her family.

For many, I assume that the mix of flowers and chocolate bunnies are standard when Easter rolls around. But when I think of Easter, I think of lamb and the time I walked in on my grandfather, my Nonno, in his basement butchering a lamb hanging from the ceiling. I didn’t get chocolate, I got a fresh lamb.

I haven’t seen a hanging lamb since. I haven’t seen my Nonno since the funeral two weeks ago.  Late December, doctors found out the reason why he was constantly losing blood.

Christmas came with a cancer diagnosis.

We all knew what was going to happen, but no one talked about it. We didn’t want to face what was next.

My sister and I went back to work and school, going on as if everything was the same. But it wasn’t. My mom started spending nights at my Nonna’s helping her with Nonno, trying to keep his spirit alive.

I know why they did it, but I’ll never know how they had the strength to spend day in and out by his bedside hoping that he would have a good day. Praying that he would be able to remember enough of them to fight and hold on a little longer.

Like clockwork, every few weeks something happened. First came the diagnosis, then he ended up in the hospital for a week. There it was decided that palliative care was the only option left. He ended up coming home after that, though he was immobilized.

For awhile everything would seem steady, and then I’d get the message that he had to rushed in for a blood transfusion, again. Transfusions became routine.

When I got the text saying they were waiting for more blood on a Thursday, I thought nothing of it. I was by his side the whole day before, studying and reading like I had ever since January.

I never thought this was the last time I’d see him at home.

He hung on for three more days.

No one is ever ready to see someone they love pass away. You’ll always want more time, more memories, a chance to say goodbye all over again. After 56 years of marriage how can you ever be ready to lose the person who’s been by your side through it all?

In the last few months I knew Nonno wasn’t doing well, even though he’d never complain about being in pain, ever. Though some days he could barely stay awake, Nonna always made sure he had everything. I’ve never seen such strength. I’d catch glimpses of her staring at him just smiling. Smiling because I can only assume she was taking in every last moment. Even though he was only a portion of the person he was before he got sick, he was still there. He still had his sense of humour and kind heart.

After the funeral, my Nonna wanted our family to come back to her house and have lunch. One of my cousins grabbed me and asked if we’d rather be alone after everything. We didn’t. No one was ready to see the house where they raised my mom, saw her get married and raised me and my sister in because he wasn’t going to be there.

It still seems surreal sitting here in their house without him in his favourite chair. He used to go on walks around the neighbourhood, multiple times a day. So, as I stare at the side door, I’m choosing to believe he’s out there, walking, making up for the last few months, getting ready to come home and start planting the tomatoes for his garden.

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