My grandfather, my Grandpa Norm, passed away the day after Thanksgiving. He was ninety-three and had been in failing health for a while, and earlier that week, he decided he was ready to bring in hospice, who kept him comfortable and without pain in his final days. While I miss him terribly, I know that he had a long, happy life, and I pray that he is feasting at the eternal banquet in heaven with my grandma, his parents, siblings, and many friends and family members.
Grandpa Norm was my last grandparent to die. I was so fortunate to have had all four grandparents until I was nineteen. All four grandparents were major parts of my childhood (and with two of them, my adulthood), and the death of each of them holds a unique place in my heart. With the death of my last grandparent, those parts of my heart are being tugged a bit harder right now.
The funny thing about grief is that it hits you in ways you cannot anticipate. My family and I drove from Washington, DC to Michigan for the services for my grandpa, and on our nine-hour drive home, I was making a mental to-do list of all of the holiday tasks I needed to accomplish when we returned home. One included working on our Christmas cards, and the grief came flooding as I realized I would have to remove my grandpa from our Christmas card list and that we would not be sending him a gift. It was something so small, but it hit me in a big way.
Grief is hard. There is no way around it. The beauty of our faith, though, is that we know there is more after this life. We know we will be reunited with those loved ones we miss so dearly, and we must cling to that hope when we are deep in grief. We have to go through the darkness and sadness of Good Friday in order to experience the light and joy of Easter Sunday.
In some ways, I am grateful for the timing of my grandfather’s death to have been at the beginning of Advent. The season of Advent is a time for reflection and preparation. During Advent, we prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus not only at his birth, but also at his Second Coming. For me this year, I am adding another dimension to my time of reflection: remembering my grandparents, my grandfather especially, and being grateful for the gift they were in my life.
There is something about this time of the year that lends itself to grief: the weather where I am is cold and damp, darkness comes sooner than I want it to, and there is a rush of busyness that often distracts me from the importance of this time leading up to Christmas. But in the sadness and darkness of this time—this year in particular for me—I look forward to the light of Christ entering the world on Christmas day and to his glorious return at the end of time.