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The bigger picture

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By Calen McKinney

Spoiler alert: A character died on Monday night's episode of "The Big C."

If you haven't been watching the show, it characterizes Cathy Jamison's life after she gets the news that she has terminal cancer.

The show is touching, plain and simple. It's also a bit raunchy and over the top, but the message still hits pretty close to home.

Monday's episode made me think, though, about the legacy people leave behind when they die. And that thought made me very sad, and kept me up for a long time after the show's credits had rolled.

For the past several months, my parents and I have experienced the death of three family members and the declining health of my grandfather. Not easy stuff.

With death comes lots of emotion and decisions that have to be made.

After the death of the family member who was providing some care for my elderly grandfather, we had some tough decisions to make. Who will take care of him? Can he stay at home by himself? Is he eating? Is he really OK, like he always says? And, the most frustrating, why isn't he answering the phone?

It seems every time we turned around, he had fallen and needed more medical attention. His medic alert became a life saver, for both him and us.

After much thought and worry, we decided to apply for a bed at a nearby veteran's center. He was moved up the list, because of his declining condition, and swiftly moved in. I don't know if we were ready for this. The move, to this day, is still only a semi-willing one.

We are still deciding what to do with his house and belongings and how to make sense with what has happened.

Seeing him living in his new "home," which is essentially a hospital room divided by a curtain, was sad for me.

Is it the place he needs to be? Absolutely. Has it been an emotional process? Without question.

On Monday night, I couldn't help but think about Granddad when Lee - Cathy's "cancer soul mate" on "The Big C" - took his last breath.

We have talked to Granddad at length lately about what he wants to happen after he dies. Since it's being talked about, the possibility now seems more real to me. And that's what has kept me up at night.

I know the legacy my grandfather will leave. His house and belongings will be gone, but his "home" will always be in our memories.

I'll never forget picking his prized tomatoes with him in his garden; feeding his goat, Pickles, on the farm; him telling us - every single time we visited - to turn the car around in his yard so we don't have to back out in traffic; him becoming a bit more emotional in his later years and saying "I love you" much more frequently, and his new obsession with sweet potato fries.

I may have been watching "The Big C" on Monday night, but it made me realize "The Big P," the Bigger Picture.

We may be sad that my grandfather isn't living at home anymore. But he's still alive and we need to cherish every moment we have left with him.

The legacy my grandfather will leave is poetic, I think. With one arm, Granddad never let his "disability" keep him from anything. From that, I learned that with some hard work and determination, I can accomplish anything I want to.

And that's one of the greatest life lessons a granddaughter can ever be taught.