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Ashes to Ashes

Ashes to Ashes

By Andrew Butson

It was a long-awaited moment. I was the only one who didn’t burst into tears. I’d never seen someone so beaten up before. I thought my grampa was sturdy as a rock, unsinkable. He could shrug off visible pain and push through anything never giving up. I never considered the pain buried deep underneath the skin that was smashing through the steel cage around his heart.

In the summer of 2016, we found out that my grandma had cancer. Like, wait, how’s that possible? Why Her? I’d heard about cancer all my life and how it ruins lives but my life was clean, cancer never touched my life until now. I knew that I’d been running along a thin wire all my life to avoid cancer. The news caught like wildfire and engulfed my family, burning anyone who was nearby. I felt helpless; it was like looking at a corn-field submerged in raging flames.

I was buried under this, I had no escape. But I was trapped in the apartment where I had to confront the burning. My grandma was frail and starved. Everything she cherished was long gone. She knew long before we did that she didn’t hold the strength to triumph this. I had to see everything, watch the disease slowly devour her, withering her away to nothing. It’s like a soldering iron being driven into my skin, burning deep into my flesh, clinging and hissing, scarring and soldering, never letting go.

Countless nights passed by where my grampa would suffer countless nights with daunting nightmares. Even if he managed to find a way to sleep, it was a bed where he once laid with his lover. I don’t understand how he survived; he must have felt buried ten-feet down, helpless, powerless to do anything. The only thing he could do is hunker down and watch the days wither away.

I refused to grandma in the hospital. I saw her once and I needed out of this building that smelled like fumes of death, as if I was wandering through rows of graves with the days marked when they arrived. People wandered through the rows with blank face full of misfortune. Every soul appeared lost, trying to find some sort of purpose to cling onto. I could just picture a reaper roaming through the shadows waiting to make its mark.

Witnessing someone you love, in bed helpless, struggling to collect words only to be uttered in a raspy tone. Wires and tubes ran here and there, lights danced around, hummed and beeped waiting for the day when they wouldn’t dance anymore. I was unaware of what they did or what they were attempting to tell me. I knew was that the lights had to keep dancing for life to continue on.

I told myself this is reality, I can’t alter death, I’m not God, I can’t change anything. Death is upon my family; the sun was falling below the horizon and soon our lives would be filled with somberness and gloom.

There was no sympathy for my grandma, she was fighting against a disease that gave no mercy. It tore everything apart. I quietly prayed that one day, it would all be over and she’d be somewhere better, that maybe she’d be in Heaven, alongside her family.

And then eventually the core of our family was torn from us, leaving nothing but ashes behind. Cold, dark, grey ashes.