Tuesday, November 29, 2011

As the Holidays Roll Out

I've told this story before, but it means a lot to me. I hope that it means something to you, too.

Christmas Eve is a pretty big deal around here. We have a tradition of going to church in the afternoon, coming home and opening new pajamas, and eating a formal dinner by candlelight in our pj’s. The year that Great Grandma Florence had passed away (two days prior) was a somber one.  Family from Michigan had joined us here (for the funeral that would take place on the 26th), and although everyone tried to get into the Christmas spirit by wearing pajamas to our house, it was tough. I can’t tell you about the depths of my husband's father's sorrow that night (the computer screen becomes blurry just thinking about Grandpa 4444's seemingly-bottomless grief).  Normally very jovial and full of Christmas Spirit, his heart was empty that night. He had lost his mother, his best friend, and a larger-than-life personality that helped define our family’s character.

Earlier that day, I had bought a tall, burgundy-colored pillar candle and a gold stand to hold it in a place of prominence on the mantel. As we gathered that night, I shared my idea to light the candle and keep it lit throughout our Christmas Eve celebration as a way of remembering the four 4444 family grandparents we had lost in the past couple of years, including Gram Florence. Bob seemed unimpressed, but he did consent to lighting the candle for me.

I don’t remember anything else about the night except the ending. After hugs good bye, as Bob was heading out the door, he called out, “Don’t forget to blow Gramma out--She’d hate like hell to burn the house down!”  That gives you a glimpse of the sense of humor he had and how much someone like that in a family would be missed.  Sadly,  Bob too passed away unexpectedly, six weeks later, due to a massive heart attack.  It was another crushing blow to our family (especially in the span of six weeks); it was like a kick in the stomach; we couldn’t breathe, and we wondered about the injustice of it.   

Our identity as a family took such a hit, it was hard to believe we would ever be anything special without Gram and Bob. However, we have made it. We have “regrouped,” so-to-speak. I still miss Gram’s and Bob’s great senses of humor and their thoughtfulness, among other things. However, I see their spirits in my husband and children, who are their offspring and have inherited their wit, generosity, and fun-loving personalities. I wear the sweaters Gram lovingly knit for us, and I see Bob’s influence when my husband demonstrates (constantly) what an amazing dad he is to our kids.

While our family will never be the same without Gram and Bob, it is still special. What I’m trying to say is that if you have lost a family member this year, or if you just miss someone who is no longer with you this holiday season, I appreciate your pain. I understand your sense of loss, and I care. Hang tough; the pain of loss softens over time, even if it doesn’t completely go away. Remember the good times. Start a new tradition in the name of family. Pray for healing.

You are in my prayers…

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