To put it plainly, for the past couple of weeks, I have been avoiding writing. It’s ironic, really, because usually, putting pen to paper (or, in this case, fingers to keyboard) is how I process things. And maybe it’s because this is something I wasn’t quite ready to process, or maybe it’s because it was entirely too overwhelming to think about, or maybe it was something else entirely, but I have been hesitant to come to the keyboard as I have dealt with life’s latest trial.
On December 1, 2017, my grandfather passed away.
Grief is not something you can ever be prepared for, and if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that every season of it brings with it its own, unique, unexplainable sadness.
My heart is heavy, but also light. I am thankful to have been able to go back to California and spend Thanksgiving with him and the rest of the family, and to have that most precious time that I can undeniably say has changed how I feel about Thanksgiving forever.
Now, I know I am incredibly lucky. Beyond blessed, actually. I had 23 and a half wonderful years with him, and he gave those before me 87 years of the fiercest, sometimes toughest, most genuine love.
There’s a lot to consider when someone you love passes away. How do you honor their memory? How do you uphold their legacy?
For Paw Paw, it’s pretty simple.
His legacy… is us.
Those who know my family know how tight knit we are. It’s our best fault, actually, as it can sometimes (okay, oftentimes) be intimidating to try to penetrate our bond.
But the best thing about my family is – usually, you won’t have to try to break into our arms. More often than not, we will welcome you wholeheartedly, and you will be enveloped in the same overbearing, incredible love that we offer one another so passionately.
We are the kind of family that always gets together, regardless of the occasion. Whether it’s a holiday, birthday, or just some random weekend that someone decided to come home on, you can find us gathered around a kitchen island, snacking on salami and cheese and being entirely too loud.
Paw Paw spoke often the last time I saw him about how proud he was of our family.
I told him that he should be proud of himself, for building it.
He built the kind of family that would have been together on Thanksgiving, regardless of the circumstances, but who made absolutely sure to be together this year. He built the kind of family who spent a week together every year in one huge house in Oregon, despite most of them living in the same small town. He built the kind of family that always comes first.
I have always lived by that motto — “family first” — and it isn’t until recently that I’ve realized how unique a perspective that can be.
My grandmother always says the same thing after we’ve gathered around a table for a holiday meal. We all hold hands and wait for her to say the prayer, which she always ends in the exact same way:
God bless the family.
And this year, that took on an entirely new meaning. God bless the family for coming together in hard times. God bless the family for loving one another so unapologetically. And God bless the family for knowing when it’s time to be there, be present, and be together.
Thank you, Paw Paw, for instilling in all of us the importance of it.
I can only hope to someday create my own family as incredible as the one you’ve built for us.