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Loss teaches us to value those we love

This was my first Christmas without my grandparents.

In the strictest technical sense, that’s not actually true. Grand and Grandpa passed away in fall 2020, her from general failing health and him just a couple months later from COVID-19/related complications. So technically this past year was the first holiday season without them in our lives.

Our family didn’t get together to celebrate the holidays at all, though, in light of the continuing pandemic.

So, this was our first Christmas to actually celebrate without them.

Their absence was sorely felt.

My dad’s parents have been a constant presence in my life, part of every holiday season for 30 years. It was hard to truly conceptualize that they wouldn’t be there this year – that they will never, ever be there again.

As an obituary in this week’s paper reminds us, we do not grieve as those who have no hope (I Thessalonians 4:13). My grandparents were faithful Christian people their entire lives, and I have faith that they are in a better place.

Selfishly, though, I want them here.

We lost my mom’s parents, my Granny and Pa, in 2003 and 2004. The pain of their loss has faded with time – until this year, when our family decided to put a special emphasis this Christmas on remembering them.

My aunt put together a photo slideshow, with pictures from Granny and Pa’s youth and young adulthood, through my mother and her brothers’ childhoods, all the way up through pictures with their grandchildren, my cousins and I.

I didn’t expect to bawl my eyes out, but I guess even though the pain can fade, it still simmers below the surface.

As I looked in their faces, really stared into those faces I haven’t seen in 15-plus years and will never, never see again in this life, this side of heaven – I just wept.

I’m the oldest grandchild and the one who really, truly remembers them. My brother, two years younger, also has many clear memories, and our next oldest cousin has a few.

My uncle’s two daughters barely remember them at all. They really only know the stories they have been told.

It was so precious, so important for us to have that Christmas Day of remembering, of keeping them alive in our hearts.

I swallowed hard when Grandpa died, realizing I have no more grandparents left. I know I’m hardly the first to reach the day when all my grandparents have passed – but it feels too soon. I feel too young.

Unlike some, I am so fortunate to have three loving grandparents-in-law. My husband’s Papa, Ma and Mammaw have treated me like their own ever since we started dating.

I wish I had more time with my own grandparents, but I have let their loss spur me to treasure my remaining grandparents more highly. Hopefully it will never be said that I didn’t take every opportunity – to be with them, to hug them, to tell them I love them and hear them say they love me.

Loss teaches us to value those we love.

Our community and our world has lost a lot over the past two years. Let us take that loss and be ever more committed to the relationships that remain as we enter another year.