I've heard it said that when someone close to you dies, it is as if you are a big Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon with one less anchor holding you down. I relate to this feeling. I am utterly weightless, directionless. I rely completely on the many people on the ground, holding on to the ropes making sure I don't just float away. This sensation is ironic really, as the very nature of grief should make us feel heavy and weighted down. Perhaps this is true for me and not for everyone. Perhaps I have floated through my life like this -- allowing others to hold on to me and direct my path. To be honest, it's been nice having them down there. Maybe it's the mere perception of them being there that has given me comfort all these years. I never fear floating off into oblivion. I completely trust the people on the ground to get me to my destination.
My grandfather's death came to a certain extent without surprise. At his age, how many years could he have left? But he was extremely youthful, even in his coffin. Only last year we were celebrating his 90th birthday in NY. I think a part of me believed he would live at least another 10 years. Even to the day he died, he spoke to us on the phone, blessing us with his words. "You are the apple of my eye" he'd say, or "I am so proud of you," or my personal favorite, "You delight me." His final sentence to me was "I hope in your eyes I will always be one of the good guys." I called him a couple of days later to tell him how proud I was of him, how wonderful it has been all these years to have him as my grandfather, to know he had my back. I wanted him to know that he delighted me, too. After his surgery, he was mostly in intensive care. There were no more phone conversations. I did not feel that anything was left unsaid. His funeral was beautiful. He had finished his race. Well done, Thomas, Well done. All my family was there to say goodbye -- aunts, uncles, cousins -- I come from an incredibly warm bunch: noisy, hugging, laughing, eating, drinking, crying and more hugging. It was incredibly hard to get on that plane and fly back to California. As long as he was alive, I had complete faith that I was an expansion of the clan. But without him, I feel separated by the miles, isolated, lonely. He was the glue that connected us, the balloon handler that held a rope to all of our balloons. He was the expert. And without him, we are floating apart. It can't be helped.
Perhaps tomorrow I will feel better about all of this. But tonight, with 1 and 1/2 hours left to 2005 in California, and 1 and 1/2 hours into 2006 in NY, I feel I am straddling the continental divide. At this moment I fear I will fall into the abyss and be seen no more. But soon I suspect I will get my balance back and ring in the New Year in CA, with my family, where I belong. There are a thousand things I'd like to tell you about him -- how he'd always send the Christmas money in plenty of time for Santa to get everything my kids could possibly dream of -- every year -- even this one. How he prayed every day for each of us (12 great grandchildren, 9 grandchildren, 4 kids). How he walked the mall with the young girls (they were all in their 70s and 80s) for exercise. How he remembered every birthday by calling and singing. How he took each of us to places we loved (Westbury Manor for me, to walk with him in the gardens, San Diego Wild Animal Park later with my kids). Even just blurting out this little list makes the moments seem cheaper somehow -- less majestic -- but majestic is what they were. He had the ablility to make us all feel special, important, worthy. And now it's up to us to be sure our children and their children and their children's children are given the same chance, the same gift. Perhaps the knowledge and weight of that responsibility will be the thing that brings me back to earth. Perhaps I won't float away after all. I have an important job to do.
Goodbye 2005. With you resides my final memories of my grandfather here on earth. He was the last of 6 healthy, handsome Italian brothers. He's gone home to be with them all -- and boy will we miss him here. I hope we will all live up to his example. Thank you, God, for the incredible gift You gave us in him. I know how very blessed we are to have had him in our lives. I look forward to that day when I will be reunited with him, but until then I pray I will be as faithful as he was to run the race you have put before me. "6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." 2 Tim 4:6-8
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."