Witnessing Unconditional Love
Grandpa’s last days lasting lesson on love of a family
By Jessica Ramos-Rodriguez
Cancer has affected my life. It has probably affected yours, as well. Unfortunately, its reach is world-wide and it doesn’t discriminate. It strikes regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.
Chances are, if you’ve never had cancer, you’ve known someone who has. You may even know someone who has succumbed to this disease despite a noble and courageous fight against its wrath. This is the case with me. My maternal grandfather had cancer and passed away on Jan. 3rd. He and the entire Moreno family is the inspiration for this column.
A little over a year and a half ago, my grandpa Tony was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer that originated in his kidneys. Our family was shocked to hear this news because my grandfather, despite being diabetic, was a healthy man. He was active and ate well. No one in his immediate family had cancer and it was hard to understand how this could happen. Not only was he diagnosed with stage Stage 4 cancer, but he was also informed that his cancer had already spread to his bones and this type of cancer was terminal. Our family was devastated.
As many of you who are familiar with the course of this disease know, numerous radiation and chemotherapy treatments followed. We were told by the doctor that they were only to prolong his life, not save it. These treatments gave me a year and a half with my grandpa, and for that, I am grateful.
He was a kind and loving man. He was always there for me and he played a huge role in my life. But besides sharing how wonderful he was, I really want to share with you how my family demonstrated to me the true meaning of love.
On Dec. 26th our family was informed that my grandfather had roughly a week to live. No matter how long you’ve had to deal with the fact that your loved one has cancer, nothing can prepare you for that kind of statement. Only a week to live; this was one of the hardest weeks of my life and I think I can speak for the rest of my family when I say it was their hardest week as well. But, in spite of this devastating news, my family pulled together.
My grandmother, Margaret, my mom, Denise, and her siblings, Patrick, Kathy, Jackie, Mary and Marlene stayed by grandpa’s side. They all took turns staying with my grandpa 24/7 and offered him love, support and comfort.
And each day he got weaker, they were right there to help feed him, help him go to the restroom and administer his medication. As I stayed, as well as many of my cousins, to try to help them as they grew exhausted themselves, I felt so proud to be a part of this family. Don’t get me wrong, we are not a perfect family. No family is. There were times when there were differences of opinion, sure. But, when it came down to it, they all came together and took good care of my grandpa and gave everything they had to try to make his last days on this earth as peaceful as possible.
Losing a loved one is the most difficult thing we can experience, especially one as special as my grandpa Tony. And despite all of the pain it brought, I was lucky enough to see my family show a tremendous amount of unconditional love that I will never forget.
I am honored to have witnessed this kind of love and grateful for the closeness of our family. So to them I want to say, “Thank you.” You will never truly know how your example has impacted my life.
And to all those who have had to deal with cancer yourself or have loved ones suffering from this disease, my heart goes out to you. I pray that love and peace find you during difficult times.
Jessica Ramos-Rodriguez, Rock Island, is a graduate of Western Illinois University.