The title of this post might be a bit misleading, because this post might be a little morbid before it gets to happy…but bear with me. Happy is the destination.
While I have a certain fondness for the Christmas holiday, it is also a somber time. Every Christmas eve, I faithfully and dutifully call my father to check in on him…because that was the day his daddy died.
While there are details I will never remember because I was not privy, there are details I will never forget. Before that year, my dad was as invested in Christmas as any of us. My brothers and I would share their bunk beds and listen to our parents read us “The night before Christmas” with all the voices added, and every year they would listen to us plot on how were going to catch Santa in the act. We left him the cookies, but we also had 2 perfectly positioned chairs that hide 3 little(r) kids. This year was different though. My parents certainly didn’t dampen the mood by telling us before Christmas, but the cheer wasn’t quite as cheery. In fact, my was out of the house for the first year I ever remember him being gone.
We woke up that Christmas morning and it was business as usual. We sat under the tree and opened gifts, played with our toys, and ate Christmas dinner. My father was present…but he wasn’t there. Curious me would find out why just a little bit later.
Because we had just had a new addition to the family, we also had a dresser in the hallway with his belongings in it. I suppose my mother asked me to go grab him a sleeper or something, and in that drawer I found a booklet that changed my life entitled ” How to tell children about death”. Even though I finished the task at hand, my mind kept wandering to that book. Before then, death was something that happened, but not anything that had ever happened to anyone I knew. That is, until the day after Christmas.
My father sat us down and told us our grandfather had died. At the time, I didn’t think of much other than the fact that the man who had taken my two brothers and I to the circus, the man who was our saving grace when we towed the line when he was over, the man who would take out his teeth to amuse us, was gone. Years later, I would come to appreciate the vigil my father sat every year, and the similarities my grandpa and I shared. My father told me we were both born in the year of the rat. I’ll never forget my father telling me how he knew that this particular phone call was the phone call. He said “there had been so many scrapes he had gotten himself into, and when I got the call from his girlfriend, I knew that this was the one was the last one”.
Subsequently, I have lost other family members and have counted Thanksgivings, Christmases, New Years and Memorial Days as the first I have had to spend without that beloved.
This year, instead of bearing witness to the sadness the loss has created, I am celebrating the joys, the wisdom, and the knowledge they brought to my lives. I realize that the physical body may die, but the memories are carried on forever. A certain phrase, meal, or scent can take me back to the time I spent with them, and it reminds me that it was my great privilege to have them and their stories in my life.
Still, I sit and write this in silent tribute for all of the family members that have passed away and all of the friends that have passed out of my life.
I appreciate you. I love you. I miss you, and I celebrate you.