Fifteen years ago, Christmas Eve.
I lived in Trois-Rivieres, and worked as an emergency medical dispatcher… In short, I answered 911 calls, and sent ambulances to people in need. I was one of the last people hired, and I had to cover most of the holiday season.
I didn’t really mind. To be honest, it was quite rewarding to work on Christmas Eve, because there were a lot of calls from people who were especially miserable and alone on that special night. I was glad to make a difference.
I was covering the graveyard shift. Meaning I would get off at six in the morning, and therefore, I had to miss the yearly party at my grand parents’ home. I knew my whole family was having fun, while I dealt with chest pains and distressed people.
Before midnight, my mom called me from the party, to wish me a Merry Christmas. I told her to forward my warm wishes to the whole family, and I went back to work.
Our work stations had several wide screens, displaying entering and ongoing calls. Shortly after the turn of date, I noticed a familiar address on one of them.
71 Launier street.
77 years old male. Uncounscious. Not breathing.
My heart skipped a beat. Make it two. My grand father was dying.
I told my co-workers that was my grand parents’ address. Everybody knew it wasn’t looking good. There was a snowstorm going on. My grand parents lived in a hard to reach place. There was little hope the ambulance would get there in time.
Before I knew it, I was in my car, rushing to the hospital where the paramedics were taking my grand father. I got there about the same time they did. My parents were next, followed by a couple of other family members.
We sat in the waiting room.
When the head nurse came to tell us the doctors had tried all they could, but that my grand dad had suffered a sudden aneurysm, I broke down in tears.
I was the only one not attending the Christmas celebration. His last. By about an hour.
I pleaded to be awarded the right to see him. Everybody told me it was a bad idea, since he was freshly deceased and not most pleasant to watch. Nurses insisted that I could be traumatized, not being used to seeing dead bodies.
I insisted. And finally was allowed in the room where he was.
I cried. A lot. Not because of his blueish look, but because I felt guilty. I should have been there, just before grand pa passed away. I should have shared his last moments on earth. I cried and cried, and kissed his wrinkled hands…
I am not one who has trouble mourning. But this was my first grand parent to leave, and it was a special timing, to say the least.
I got over it. But I must say… Every Christmas coming, I think about that night. I haven’t missed a Christmas party since.
I miss you grand pa. I hope you understand that I was helping people like you, when you left this world… I hope you were proud I was.