On Christmas and Loss
My grandpa died a week ago.
I was lying in my bed, in Mississippi. Groggily checked my phone, there’s a text from my mom saying “Call me, urgent.” I didn’t need to call her to know what it was, my grandpa was sick, in and out of the hospital, for months. My mom kept me updated on how he was doing, talking about whatever surgery he had, how dialysis was going, how he was going to have the hyperbaric chamber treatment for wound healing.
He came to Thanksgiving dinner, at my parent’s house. He was ill and he was in pain and his condition was not going to improve. Maybe it’s good that he went when he did.
I really expected him to be around another week or so.I went home early, on Thursday morning, getting home just in time for the visitation to start. At funeral visitations, I always do this, I go into friendly and presentable mode. I think I told 50 or 60 people that I’m in TFA, in Mississippi, and so on. I’m not going to actually feel sad when there’s that many people around.
We went to the funeral on Friday. It was at our church, where I spent my childhood running around barefoot and sneaking around the belltower. I actually cried there, during an eulogy that a family friend gave.
We did a funeral procession, all the way across town to bury my grandfather next to my grandmother, near my great grandparents and my great aunt and great uncle.
All of the realization that he’s gone has been hitting me in waves. Everything’s good one minute, then the next I think of something little, anything really, and I realize that my grandparent’s house is not a place I’m ever going to go back to. I realize I’m never going to use my grandfather’s deathtrap drill press again, or see my grandpa spoil every dog, giving them too many treats. It’s this mix of nostalgia and grief, so much of what I’m missing was so long ago.
In my family, the only force capable of causing any kind of change in holiday traditions is death. On my dad’s side, we had Thanksgiving at my grandparent’s house every year, until my grandmother died. On my mom’s side, we had Christmas every year at my grandparent’s house, until the Christmas right before my grandmother died.
On my mom’s side, Christmas is formal, sit down dinner, traditional food on nice china. This year, it was sitting on the couch, funeral food leftovers on nice china. I’m not complaining about this, I advocated for a chill, low-stress Christmas.
When my grandpa wasn’t at Christmas dinner, it was another wave of remembering. He’s not here. He isn’t going to be here. Not this year, not next year, not ever.
I feel compelled to come up with some bible verse or some quote about how he’s in a better place, but that doesn’t feel right. I miss him, and that’s all.