I write this watching my father transition to a new world. Ed Stec, born June 25, 1924. Ninety years + four days. A hard working, self-made man. Owner of Stec Electric for thirty years. Raised four kids. Lover of sports, tools, travel, making money, coins, casinos, Cadillacs?and now... grapes.
He lies still for hours, but when the nurse comes in to ask, "Do you want anything to eat Ed," he answers with a firm "no." Well, no, except that is, for maybe a grape. Yes, just one grape ? cool, sweet, soft yet crisp. Simple to eat.
The perfect package.
He takes it in - chews, sucks and moves the grape around his mouth for five minutes or more. I see slight eye movement and a small "silly" smile. There's not a lot of stimulation people need in their last days, but seeing my father interact with this grape is like watching the greatest taste there ever was. He is so present, so aware of one small flavor.
Fast-forward two weeks and I am on the plane back to California. My father thumbed his nose at the hospice prognosticator, living much longer than the seventy two hours they originally gave him. I rerun the weeks' activities thru my mind ? his passing that I was honored to witness, the funeral parlor visitation, Catholic mass, reception, family members I haven't seen in years. But my thoughts keep returning to that grape and his chewing sonnet, now juxtaposed with the free Ritz cheesey crackers I just mindlessly inhaled.
I remember deeply experiencing something new about food and eating watching Dad savor that cool, sweet, last grape.
But how quickly we forget.
The man across the aisle grabs his free cheese crackers from the seat back pocket. I'm certain he will mindless munch like me. I pull out a stopwatch, but clock only thirty seconds before he packs up the remaining four crackers and goes back to his Kindle. Good on him.
What would you want to eat if it was the last food you'd ever put in your mouth?
And how long would you chew it, knowing this was your last taste and swallow?
We may think the dying have nothing left to give us. But quite possibly watching someone's final days is when we receive their greatest gifts of all.