Christmas Eve

This is the first Christmas Eve that he hasn’t been here.

For every single one of my 21 Christmases, my family has packed up the car and driven to my Ganny and Granddad’s house for Christmas Eve. Whether it was a two-day drive or a twenty-minute one, we were always there to celebrate. When my Granddad died in October, I knew this night would be especially difficult, but the reality doesn’t hit until certain moments come.

We shed a few (okay, I shed many) tears as my uncle prayed. This is the first Christmas that my Granddad’s strong, but shaky voice hasn’t been the one to thank God for all of the blessings we’ve received over the past year. For me, it was difficult to be thankful when I feel like one of the biggest blessings in my life was taken from this world.

My Ganny made sure to tell us it was okay, even really good, to sit in my Granddad’s chair – where he sat to watch sports, to open presents, to tell us stories, to doze as the days got harder for him to handle. I’d planted myself in his chair for a few minutes as soon as I came in the door, just trying to remember him and his love, trying to see the world from his eyes. My Ganny thanked me for that.

The evening was fun, but still sad. My family shared knowing glances when we knew something in particular triggered a special memory, and I’m sure there will be more of that tomorrow as we celebrate Christmas Day. It’s difficult to talk about this loss with my family, and it’s too easy for me to feel like I can’t talk to them about how sad I am, but it’s the few unspoken moments that create a sense of solidarity between us, and I’m eternally grateful for that.

I know this time is difficult for a lot of people. I was in constant contact with two of my best friends today because both of them have suffered loss this year, too. I know I’m not alone, but each person deals with this extreme grief in a very different way. Me, I’m a little angrier than usual, and I have to apologize more often than I used to. If you’re reading this, and you’re in a place of grief, please know you’re not alone and that you’re going to be okay. Not the same, but okay. I know that words don’t offer the kind of comfort I’d like, but I’m still grateful to those that try.

In this season of peace and joy, it’s okay to not feel those sentiments as deeply as I usually do. I’m thankful for the people who continue to surround me with their love.

Happy Christmas.

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12.9.16

Today is my last day of undergraduate classes. I’ve been so excited for this moment, but as I rub my eyes and shift my covers this morning, I notice the excitement isn’t there. I rush to get ready, just like every other morning, and lock the door behind me. I walk out into the cold morning with a sense of finality weighing on my heart.

I go to chapel for the last time (Praise the Lord). I’m not very sad about that. I think I’ll miss the idea of chapel and the idea of worshiping with my peers and professors, but as I think about chapel from a day-to-day stance, I remember the frustration I often felt as I watched man after man assume the lectern, wishing a woman could stand there (just once).

I go to work in the English department. I make copies. I finish a little last minute reading for my class at eleven.

I go to my Victorian literature class, one of my favorites, for the last time. I don’t make many comments. I want to remember my professor’s face as he laughs at the absurdity of our shenanigans – the class gets kind of rowdy on Fridays (sometimes Mondays and Wednesdays, too).

I stay in the room for our weekly English department gatherings, my professors eating their lunches as they talk with us about any and every subject that arises – fromĀ Star Wars to how a professor’s sandwich symbolizes his life. Again, I don’t make many comments; I just breathe, feeling the energy in the room that occurs only when professors and students interact.

I go to work again – I grade a couple of things and go on a mail run. Mostly I just sit and enjoy being in the office. The bell rings, signaling my shift is over. I don’t move. As one of my professors comes back into his office, I follow him, promising to only stay for a minute. (I think we both know that’s a lie, but we don’t say it.) We chat like usual. He turns to his computer to send an email, and I look around his office in an attempt to regain my composure as two tears make their way down my face. I finally voice my concerns about the future and my worries about transitioning into a time of change and growth that I know will be good, but still can’t wrap my mind around. And it’s a good last day.

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This is the American Studies building. It’s where I’ve learned and grown and cried and struggled and laughed for the last four years. Next semester I’m going to be student teaching, a time of half-still-in-college-half-in-the-real-world confusion. I know I’m not leaving yet, but I kind of am. I’m so thankful for this building and all of the people in it who have shaped my life so substantially in such a short period of time. They’ve helped me figure out what I love about English and how to share that with the world, something I am so grateful for. As I go out into “the real world” and figure out what that even means, I’ll do my best to repay them for everything they’ve done for me by working, teaching, and learning until this life is over.