Several years ago, my grandmother passed away a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. Even though she was 95 years old, it was a hard blow for the family.
She had been physically well, independent, alert. She was not ill long, and then she was gone. Not the long decline one may expect from a passing at the age of 95. Rather it was a sudden thing, as odd as that may sound to have someone gone in a flash after 95 years.
Though we know time takes its toll, having already lost my other grandparents and other members of the family, we had come to think that this grandmother, my Nan-Nan, would just always be there.
For many years, I’d gotten used to thinking that when she would be 100, I would, at 50, be the same age she had been at my birth.
All those plans about arrangements for future birthdays, and family gatherings, and holidays, with my Nan-Nan as part of them, were forever changed.
She remains part of these events as all passing family members are always a part of every such milestone and holiday. Their memories, thankfully and sadly, remain and linger. They are there with us at each of these future events though their absence is terribly obvious.
No time of the year is a good time to lose a loved one. No calendar has an appropriate date. Yet, a death before holidays or during holidays casts a long pall over such seasons.
Our loved one’s absences are etched even deeper against the festive memories of such seasons past.
Perhaps, this is so because families draw closer during these seasons. People are off work and school and are home. Out-of-town family comes home. With the family all gathered together, the absence of a loved one so recently gone is even more apparent.
Yet, it is through such gatherings that we come to realize that despite the loss, families endure.
So, it was several weeks after my Nan-Nan’s passing.
One of my cousins and her husband had a child a few weeks later.
That Christmas Eve, as the family gathered in my Nan-Nan’s house, my grandmother’s absence was felt, but it was buoyed and filled with the joy of this new member of the family. This small, wee girl who loomed as a very large reminder that families endure. That families continue from one generation to the next. That milestones are stepping stones from older generations to younger generations.
A young child not yet a week old filled the empty house of a 95-year-old woman only a few weeks gone.
Dean Poling is an editor with The Valdosta Daily Times.