I was fourteen at the time, going on twenty. It was January; just two months after my grandparents had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. My grandfather had a weak heart for quite a while, and it finally caught up to him. I remember sitting on a rocking chair in my grandparent’s apartment, rocking the chair back and forth. My grandmother, mom, uncle and great aunt were all there, in various parts of the apartment sitting quietly by themselves. Out of boredom, I decided to play my grandfather’s old red jazz guitar. I sat next to the hospital bed that was in the middle of the living room and played the song “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd to my grandfather. He was a musician, playing all sorts of instruments from piano and guitar to trumpet. Each chord I played he recognized by ear, and would say them out loud. “E minor,” he would say, “there’s a major chord, F. And there’s another minor.” That’s the most he had spoken in hours.
We ate lunch. Pizza. Pretty bland, but then again none of us were really focused enough to care about the taste. We all knew what was coming.
I decided to take a nap in the guest bedroom, despite actually being tired. I laid down on the springy, yet comforting, futon. I put my headphones in, not really caring what was actually playing. I felt the brisk breeze coming in through the open window above me, and grabbed the nearest blanket. I stared at the door, waiting for my mom to come in and get me. Any second, she would come in and get me and tell me it’s time.
I shut my eyes and listened to the music that was drifting into my ears. I opened them and looked at the door again. Though now it seemed darker. How long had I been asleep? I looked at the nearest clock and saw that about two hours had passed since I had laid down. “I guess everything is okay,” I thought to myself as I walked out of the room.
“How is he?” “No change,” answered my mom tiredly. I looked into the living room and saw my grandmother sitting on the couch next to my grandfather. She looked like she hadn’t slept for days, and she hadn’t. I sat back down in the rocking chair, and played a game on my cell phone to pass the time.
I spaced out for a while, thinking about school and my friends and basically anything that didn’t involve what was going on in that moment until my mom’s voice broke into my thoughts. “Elizabeth.” And in that split second I thought how strange it was that she had used my full name. She never called me Elizabeth, it’s always been Liz since I was 9 and declared that I no longer wanted to be referred to as Elizabeth.
I looked up from my phone and saw that my uncle and great aunt had emerged from the corners they were hiding in. They were standing around my grandfather’s bed and I thought they all looked so pale. “If they were any whiter they’d be ghosts,” I thought. I cautiously walked over to the bed and stood next to my mom. I looked at my grandfather’s face, and could just barely see his eyes'”they were pale and glassy. They reminded me of what a blind person’s eyes would look like. In that moment it seemed as though time was going in slow motion. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t hear. I saw my grandfather’s mouth as he was gasping for just a little bit of air to pass through his dry lips. I glanced up at my uncle, who was sobbing. He never believed in Heaven, or any type of life after death. I believe he took my grandfather’s death the hardest.
The rest of the day seems like a blur. I remember looking at the clock, and taking a note of the time. I remember my mom holding my grandfather’s still warm hand, noting a mark on his skin in the shape of a star. I remember people coming in and out of the apartment. Family and friends all were giving their condolences. My mother’s family is Jewish, but we didn’t sit Shiva. That day was like our Shiva. My brother’s girlfriend, who was also Jewish, brought over plenty of food'”a custom associated with Shiva since the family is not allowed to cook. It was hours before the men finally came to take my grandfather away. My mother, grandmother and I all huddled in the kitchen, afraid to watch the men cart our loved one away in a body bag. After the men left, our minister came over to talk to various members of our family about burial plans and memorial services. It seemed like days had passed before we finally headed back home.
My step-father pulled our car into our snow-covered driveway, after the silent ride home. My mom and I unloaded the trunk of the car which was filled with bags of clothing, since we had been staying at my grandparents for quite a few days. “Look at the tree,” she hoarsely whispered to me. I looked up at the tree that stands in the middle of our yard, and in between two branches was a pile of snow. It was in the shape of a disfigured star, the exact same shape of the mark on my grandfather’s hand. “It’s him,” she cried, comforted in knowing her father, my grandfather, was still watching over us.