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When Time Stopped

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It had all been normal. Tattie and berry picking in his garden all day, inside watching television at night, just his everyday routine. I was at home though, and one hour away things were about to take a turn for the worse. The room was dull and the atmosphere grim. It was only then that I realised I would never see him again; one of the most significant people in my life – gone. It had been unpreventable. I wish I had known, but I hadn’t. No one had known, but the question will always be in the back of my mind: what if?

My Granda often visited me, it was a regular thing. He stayed with us for almost six months each year. Broken up into fortnights of course, or else he might forget how to do ordinary things and cope on his own as a result of his Alzheimer’s disease. But I wasn’t prepared for what this particular visit entailed, and I was clueless as to how heartbroken it would leave me. My mum collected him from Arbroath while I was at school, and I couldn’t wait to see him when I arrived home. I burst through the front door, eager to see my Granda, but as soon as I set eyes on him my mood shifted. His face was gaunt and his once rosy cheeks were now sunken. His body had dramatically changed as well. His belly, once rounded due to whisky, biscuits and cake had reduced to nothing. As I hugged him it felt as though I could feel every bone in his body through his jumper. I was in shock. I tried to convince myself that he had just been going on more walks, or forgetting to eat a few meals here and there. Maybe his Alzheimer’s had been getting worse?

A few days into his visit my mum decided she would have to phone a doctor. His breathing had been getting unstable, and he was getting weaker than ever. It was at this point I began to fully appreciate the extent of the problem. I should have known something was wrong, but back then I was in denial. He was admitted to the hospital for five days, and in those five days, my life consisted of hospital visits and stress. I was constantly on the move between school, the hospital, and home. Like a broken record going round and round. It was impossible to get a break. Every time I entered the hospital my hands got clammy and my nose stung from the smell of disinfectant that filled the corridor. I noticed new things every time I visited. Things the doctors didn’t notice. They didn’t know that every time they served him food he immediately put it in the bin, but I did. It felt like weeks until he was discharged. Weeks of explaining to him where he was and what was happening. Weeks of my life being put on hold. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which came completely out of the blue. I was also told that he had suffered a silent heart attack, which most likely happened while he was digging his garden, which was where he loved to spend his time. His accordion, which was once played for hours at a time sat, the keys gathering dust, too heavy for his weak arms to hold. I knew things were going downhill when he said we would watch that lass on television rather than play his accordion.

My Granda, who had developed a great love for music over the years, and still remembered songs from his dance band days, although he forgot simple things, had decided that he would rather watch the television than play his own music. But at that moment in time, I didn’t realise he wouldn’t be able to hold on for that long. It took about four days. Four days for me to understand what was going to happen. Four days for things to go from bad to dreadful. I knew the inevitable was drawing closer each day. My mum texted my dad, who was out of the country at the time, informing him that if he didn’t come home it would be too late. He was home within forty-eight hours. Sometimes I feel as if he held on, just to say one last goodbye to my dad. I spent the last few days of his life watching him deteriorate. We did everything we could to make him comfortable, and when we asked him if he was okay, he would reply, not with words, but with a simple thumbs up. It all happened so quickly. An average Thursday night changed in a heartbeat. It took a matter of minutes, and I knew the time had come. I gave my Granda one last hug and listened as he clung on for his final breaths. My heart was shattered. It felt like my world had stopped turning. The undertakers came and took him away and now he rests peacefully beside my Granny in Arbroath cemetery.

On the twenty-third of November, one month prior to his ninety-second birthday, my Granda, Alexander Stewart, passed away in the arms of his loved ones. Time really did stop for him. The first time we visited his house after his passing, all the clocks, every single one, had stopped. Was it a coincidence? I will never know. I miss him every day. His joyful face and his optimistic outlook on life. He spent almost a century on this earth and lived a happy healthy life for the most part. I believe he lived the best life he could have, and he truly made an impact on all those who knew him. My siblings and I have inherited his love of music, and I hope to make an impact on everyone, just like he did.

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