By: Megan Roche
It’s a beautiful time of year. Families are gathered together to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and the dawn of a new year. But for some, it’s a time to grieve the person who isn’t there.
On December 5, I lost my grandfather, Papa John. He was a beautiful soul who served his country with pride in the US Army while stationed in Vietnam. He was a devoted husband to my Oma, a wonderful father to my aunt Kristina and my stepdad Keith. But to me, my brother, and my cousins Madelyn and Brianna, he was Papa.
There are so many beautiful memories that Papa and I share together. Who else would I love to spend time with wandering the streets of Colonial Williamsburg (his ultimate happy place)? Who else would I rather be with on a Sunday during football season watching the New York Jets play? Who else would enjoy sitting in his chair with his cowboy movies and a phone at the ready for a day full of playing solitaire? That was my Papa.
Grief is a very funny thing. Everyone goes through the motions but not at the same time. On the day that my beloved Papa passed away, I was here in Williamsburg, Virginia. One thing my grandpa loved was long walks down Duke of Gloucester Street. I visited his favorite candy shop, bought his favorite sugar free candy, found a bench in front of the Governor’s Palace, and ate them. I felt his presence there with me as I made my peace with his passing.
As the days have slowly started to move past, I’ve learned so much about my grandfather that I didn’t know. I guess I understand now that my love of Christmas is from him. My grandmother shared with me that if he could celebrate Christmas every day, he would. This Christmas, as hard as it is without him, I am going to celebrate bigger than I ever had. I want to honor his memory with Christmas music, his favorite holiday movies, and carry on the traditions that he started so many years ago.
There will be days ahead where I will hear one of his favorite songs or visit one of his favorite places that I’m sure will affect me. But it’s okay to cry. How could you not cry after losing a special man? But I know too that he wouldn’t want me to sit here and cry, but to continue to live my life and give to others the way that he would have. He would not want our family to wallow in pity, but instead pour a glass of Drambuie, eat a slice of apple pie and smoke a cigar for him.
Even through this grief, the holiday season this year will continue. If anything, this loss has reminded all of us in my family that life is short and to treasure every minute that you get to spend with those who are close to you. That’s exactly what Christmas this year will be, not a time of sadness, but a time to celebrate all those who are here together and recount all the Christmas memories of past holiday seasons that were spent with my Papa.
Papa, you will always be an important member of our family and your legacy will live on in all of us. We’re taking care of things down here on Earth, but I know you can see that, for you have the best seat in the house. We miss you beyond words, but we will continue to honor you and the incredible man that you were. Until we meet again one day in Heaven.