The Ticking Clock

Never before had I seen
a man with so much grief.
When my grandmother died,
she left my grandfather behind
helpless and devastated

I was a student in my early twenties
and I then made a commitment
I made of Friday grandpa day
Every week I travelled three hours
to be with him

His tears kept flowing
He complained that everyone
had let him down
How he was all alone
And that I had again brought the wrong groceries with me

In the small living room
with big brown oak furniture
I listened to him
while he smoked
one cigarette after another

My grandmother looked at me
from several pictures
Her slippers were still underneath
the coffee table
Her keys in the bowl
in case she needed them again

Nothing had changed since she left
Like she could come back any minute
Only the ticking of an antique clock
reminded me of the fact
that time existed

My grandfather got sick
The grief turned into a physical disease
A cancer in his intestines
That grew and grew
As his tears flowed and flowed
And spread itself through his body

It then was grandpa day twice a week
In the half dark
I sat with him for hours and hours
In silence, with only the sound of
the antique clock ticking
He felt too sick to talk

I learned the value of presence
without any words
the value of unconditional giving

And one day he suddenly
whispered to me:
‘Please tell me all about heaven.’
I told him about it and said that his wife would be waiting there
And that they would be reunited

He whispered ‘thank you’
Tears lit up in his eyes
while he smiled
And then the silence returned
Never before had I felt so close
to him

And one day I got a phone call
that his end was near
When I arrived and entered the room
my grandfather had his eyes closed
‘Who is there?’ he asked the nurse
‘It is Marieke’ she said
He smiled, his voice weak
‘Oh it is the angel,
she was sent to me from heaven.’

A few hours later
the clock stopped ticking


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