So I recently learned that someone so very dear to me, someone I loved and admired and respected, and someone who I had sadly lost touch with us on a regular basis with had died very suddenly. A wonderful man, a man blessed with 5 children and a grandchild, a man gifted with an ability to weave words into magic, a person who got me like almost no one ever had and, I fear, no one ever will. A man whom life had not treated very kindly but who never lost his sense of optimism about his future, who took joy in the simple pleasures of his children and his deep and abiding love for them, who put his own ambitions and dreams and future plans on hold so that he could be there for those who needed him the most: his kids, his ailing parents, his grandchild, his students. And he was also there for me as perhaps the best and truest friend I ever had.
So now I have lost 2 men this year who showered me with love and compassion and caring and who lived their lives so well that their light continues to shine on those of us lucky to have shared time and space with them, my Dad and my friend. And as the days creep ever closer to Christmas, what should be the happiest time of any year for me, I find myself bursting into tears on a regular basis, sobbing behind closed doors at home so my great kid won’t hear me, weeping at church yesterday when something my blessed and humble priest said during his sermon reminded me of my Dad, getting choked up at all things great and small.
That it’s all tied to Christmas should have been obvious to me but it wasn’t until my closest friend pointed it out to me. That this Christmas will be like no other for me, my Mom, my sisters, my great kid, my friend’s kids and his grandchild. That there will be a void, a hole so deep that it makes me just want to go to sleep and have someone wake me in January, so I’m not forced to confront and deal with this emptiness during this joyous season.
We are lucky, though, so lucky to have my cousins – wonderful women who looked upon my Dad as their surrogate father who, with their spouses and siblings and children, spent time with my Dad in those last days, days both awful and wonderful. My cousins included us in their Thanksgiving feast and then said “Come spend Christmas with us this year. Don’t spend it alone. We all miss him; we all love him. Let us help you find the joy you can this Christmas; let’s get through this together.” And so we are, headed out late next week to the Hamptons to spend a long Christmas weekend with my cousins, women my Dad loved as much as he loved my sisters and me.
I know my Dad – and my friend – are in a better place and their cares and worries and suffering and pain are over. And I keep thinking that it will get easier and sometimes it does but, at least for me, it seems as fresh and as painful as when it happened. Do I cling to that pain subconsciously? Am I afraid to let go and move on? Those are questions I don’t know the answers to but I do know that no person any of us has ever loved and lost would want me – or any of us – to live in a bubble of grief and self-pity.
So my New Year’s resolution is to try to focus on all of the happy memories that I still have – and will always have – of my Dad and my friend. To try to remember to thank God for letting them be in my life as long as they were, for allowing me to be part of their world and be on the receiving end of the love they shared, the laughter they encouraged, the advice they doled out (solicited or not), the hugs they gave. And to know that just because they’re not physically here doesn’t mean they’re not here. They live in a different form now but they will always still live as long as I can remember them and honor their memories by living as good and honorable and truthful and compassionate a life as they did. I am a better person for having known them and I like to think that I can impart some of that goodness to all of you so that, by my words, you will have known them too. I think they’d like that. And I know you all would have liked them.