A couple of years ago I returned from adventures in far off lands to learn that whilst I was away, my grandfather had suffered a stroke.
When I visited him the next day I was pleasantly surprised by his condition. He was awake, alert, and seemed to be in good spirits; although his inability to speak (he couldn't form words, it was as though he was perpetually tongue-tied) kept us all guessing as to his mental well-being. Compared to the state of my dad after his stroke (mostly paralysed, very far away), it seemed entirely possible that granddad could recover fully and revert back to the fiercely independent, witty and charming 80-something year old man that I'd known before I left.
But as the weeks went by, there was no improvement. Nothing changed, other than granddad's mood - which got blacker. He was prone to bouts of intense grumpiness (a common Brooks trait, to be fair). He declined the offer of speech therapy. Eventually, he declined the offer of food.
In a number of ways, this was quite reassuring. It showed that he was still aware enough of himself and what was happening that he was able to make a choice.
It didn't stick, though. Either he didn't have the will to starve himself to death, or he was convinced by others that it wasn't the way to go. He was discharged from hospital some weeks later, and ended up in a retirement village; a small community of flats 'n' such, for old folk that aren't far gone enough for the nursing home, but have no reason to be living in house now that all the kids are grown up and they've outlived two wives.
It wasn't bad, but it wasn't the same. I went with dad last Christmas to pick granddad up and take him back for lunch and presents and cheating at board games and all the other usual Christmas shenanigans. Five minutes of sitting around in that place depressed me enough that I was given to thinking of happier times; which depressed me even more, so I started to think about dying instead. Despite all this, granddad seemed happy enough. Not "all there", but content. Dad would visit him a couple of times every week (the retirement village was just down the road from the parents').
A couple of months back, dad went to pay his regular visit and found granddad on the floor in the kitchen. It wasn't obvious what had happened, whether it was another stroke, just a fall... but granddad wasn't doing so good. He's been in hospital ever since. During that time he's deteriorated quite rapidly, physically and mentally. A few weeks ago he was diagnosed with vascular dementia; a few days ago he was diagnosed with pneumonia.
The hospital - after talking to all the right members of the family - have decided that they will no longer attempt to treat granddad for any of his illnesses. At present, he is pretty much comatose; and in the next few days he will be allowed to die. Peacefully, and painlessly.
This is a good thing.
A toast: To Eric Brooks.