Front row: Annie, Grammy Vera, Zachary, Amy, Lily, Katie. Back row: Tom, Steve, Karen, Brent, Cathleen, John

This is a good, hard weekend. Saturday we celebrated the life of my father-in-law. On Friday night I began to fall apart. I have certainly had my moments of tears and grief over the past few weeks. But this was different. This was the dam breaking, tears flowing, heart aching falling apart I usually reserve for well after whatever the hard event is. This was unlike me, to fall apart during. My tears were the mascara smearing, make-up running, use-a-full-box-of-tissues kind.

 Certainly this was grief. But what exactly had led to this breaking of the dam? It took a little time to understand what exactly had brought my heart to this broken open place, and then it came. Our family had arrived. Life-long friends of John’s parents and family arrived from Des Moines on Thursday. Stories and tears began to flow as our family began to move out of the “to do” list and into a time of reflection and shared grief.  Then on Friday evening, the house began to fill up with more family. Sweet hubby’s oldest sister and her husband arrived with 4 of their 5 kiddos, high school junior to young college grad. The house filled up with family. Each person who entered went to find Grammy in her recliner and greet her with a hug. I could see her heart began to ease and a light began to come on inside her that has been absent from all of us for so much of the past few months.

Within that space of an hour or so, the house filled with soft background sounds of plates filling, ice clinking and the quiet visiting of people who had a shared loss, but had not been all together in the same room at the same time for years, (or ever). Awkward silences and uncertainty slowly gave way to quiet visiting.

As I looked around the house, it dawned on me. Nothing on earth made Grampy happier that having all the family around. Having the house packed to the brim with visiting and chatting, all the tables and chairs filled with people eating and sharing; that was Grampys’ thing. To have everyone here and him not in the middle of it struck me right in the heart. I did feel that in some way Grampy was there with us and that he will always be, I couldn’t help but be sad, about how happy he would be to have been there with all of us.

Grampy lived for family meals, holiday gatherings, updates from and about the kids and grandkids. He couldn’t wait to see everyone or plan a visit. As I looked around and realized what he was missing, and how much not having him there with us caused me to miss him, I reminded myself to breathe.

On Saturday, we gathered for the small Celebration of Life. Family and the couple of close friends, everyone have tested multiple times prior to gathering and having been as cautious as possible in the 2 weeks between Grampys’ death and this gathering. A dear friend officiated, calling us together, sharing a few passages and observations from scripture so applicable to Bill’s life. Grammy read. Brother-in-law Brent played the dulcimer, grandson Matt provided a beautiful hymn, one of Grampy’s favorites. Memories, philosophies of life and lessons taught by Grampy were shared. Stories were told, relationships and love were described through shared laughter and tears.

After the service, I felt my heart beginning to heal. The reason we were all together was hard and sad. But by the time we gathered for lunch after the Celebration of Life, I began to hear louder visiting, more laughter, and by afternoon, cousins were gathered around the dining table playing games, sharing and just enjoying one anothers company. By the time chili supper was served later in the evening, chess and other games had broken out, discussions of pop culture, music, movies, video games and electronics were topics of animated talking. We were all tired. Grief is exhausting to process. But it was also so good to be together, to have this time, so difficult to carve out of lives where grandchildren are in 4 different colleges in 3 different states and we live in no less than 7 different cities and states. My mother-in-law will is a woman of few words, so we pay attention when she expresses a thought. As the evening drew to a close, Grammy looked over at me and said, “We need to try to get everyone together again at the house we rented on the lake in Michigan.” I could see her wheels turning, and it was good.

Today we will gather one last time. Our DesMoines friends had to depart early today in order to have enough time to make it home. The remaining family will gather for lunch in honor of Grammy’s birthday. We are still grieving. That is now a part of our new normal. Grampy is not here, but he will always be with us. But today we will celebrate Grammy. We will laugh, share the requested carrot cake, and make a new and happy memory while we move forward together. I heard you Grammy. We will see what we can do about Michigan.

2 thoughts on “Family

  1. I love this, Cathleen. You captured grief, loss, and togetherness so well. Your family will be in my prayers ❤️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.