It’s been eight years since you’ve left us. I don’t like this. It’s too long. I have to try really hard to remember how you sounded and felt when you hugged us. And your laugh- whether at something you were okay being amused by or something that Colleen or Steven said that was totally inappropriate and you laughed in spite of yourself because they are so funny and you loved them so much.
(Sean, John, and I? Could not get away with that. It was a gift of those two, and I hope they know how good they had it.)
I’m living in your house. It’s awesome. Sometimes when I come home after a day away it smells exactly like it did when you were here. I like to imagine you and Grandma hanging out while we’re gone. (And here. That would be okay too.) Last weekend, Buzz and I took a nap (your granddaughter is too old to party at reunions,) and when I slept really deeply. When I woke up it that smell was back. It was so wonderful that it was like a hug and I didn’t want to open my eyes.
I had to, because your great grandchildren are living here too. They get to grow up where you raised your little girls into beautiful women. They get to play in the backyard where you taught John about birds and Colleen and I played under the tree. Squeaks sleeps in your office. I love that every time I go in there, whether I’m happy or sad, upset that I have to put TinkerBell and her Fairies away for the thousandth time this week, or so thrilled that she wants another cuddle, I have memories in that room. Buddy sleeps in the other bedroom, and that room has fun memories too because that’s where all of Grandma’s costume jewelry was and it was pretty cool.
I have a bookshelf in the hallway. It needed one.
Sometimes when Buzz and I are watching TV at night I’ll go into the kitchen for something (okay, for more wine,) and just the light above the sink is on. And for a second? I can swear my parents are at some (very infrequent) function and you’re babysitting Colleen and John and I. And I just have to go into the family room and you’ll be there laughing at The Russians are Coming! Or It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
All of these memories are wonderful. I am legitimately thankful every day when I get up that I get to experience life that way. (And given how cranky I am when I get up, this is a shocker.)
But those memories are not the most important thing you gave me (and all of us, really.) You gave us God.
For a few reasons, I’ve been thinking about my faith lately and what exactly it means, and how it should dictate how I live my life. I’ve been lucky enough to have an easy enough life where I am able to “coast” in my faith for long periods of time, going to Mass every week, saying prayers, confession every few weeks, etc. But never stopping to really think about what it means.
But certain things, and having children is a big one of those things- you have to impart EVERYTHING to them. And their souls are on you. Dang. That’s a lot of pressure.
Anyway, I realized that the most important gift you’ve given me (and my siblings and cousins), is our faith. You gave us the example of devotion to Christ and His Church. You gave us an understanding of how wonderful the sacraments are. You gave us an example of what marriage really is and how beautiful it can be on the most painful of days. You gave us a reminder that, every day, you started your day with the Source and the Summit of our faith, the Eucharist.
After you died, I started going to daily Mass. I was young (and thin and pretty…that’s usually how the sentence ends. Because I’m shallow.) and had lots of free time and could do that. I sat in your pew and thought about you being there with me. And it calmed me down. It was the only thing that helped with not having you here.
I stopped when I got married, for a lot of reasons like I was living on the ends of the earth and had small children. But now? Now that the kids are little bigger? I want to start taking them to Mass in the morning. I want to sit in your pew and tell them about my grandpa and all that he did for us.
Because by imparting your specific, unwavering faith on us, and teaching us the important things in life, you gave us the greatest gift of all. You gave us the gift of the possibility of eternal life.
I love you, and I hope and pray I am lucky enough to be with you in Paradise again.