On Saturday November 17, I flew to North Carolina for the start of a six day vacation. On Sunday November 18, while overlooking Cape Fear in Wilmington, NC, on the site that the rivercourt scenes of my favorite show One Tree Hill were filmed on, my mom called me and told me we were going to lose my favorite person on the planet – my grandpa. The next three days included constant texts and phone calls, and every morning, including minutes after I got that first phone call and the morning of his last day, I Face Timed with my grandpa. He recognized me every time.
On Tuesday November 20, he passed. One week later, on Tuesday November 27, we laid him to rest. That day was also my 28th birthday.
I think this is the fourth time I’ve tried writing this post. At first, I thought I wanted to talk about the man that my grandpa was to me, but my brother Chance put it in words better than I ever could – click HERE for his eulogy. But the more I got to thinking about it, the thing that keeps coming back to me over the last two weeks has been grief and how it’s often an untold part of loss.
We don’t talk about grief. How do we even come close to explaining it? It’s different for everyone, and often we feel like we’re grieving the “wrong” way because of society, harsh words from a loved one said in the heat of the moment, guilt….all of these things make us close lipped about grief. But as I’ve continued to start and restart writing, I keep coming back to grief and what’s that looked like to me. What have I realized? Grief is weird.
I was alone during the time grandpa was living his last days. While he personally told me to stay on my trip, and I firmly believe God wanted me there to share the Atlantic Ocean with grandpa among other sights I was able to show him – I was still alone. Words cannot truly convey the utter and complete sadness I felt over those three days. That’s grief. But grief is also lots of other little things.
- Walking around in New Bern, NC, like a zombie after getting the phone call, and a random high school student stopping you on the street to offer you a hug because of your tear-stained face…so you take it.
- Being in bed by 7:00 the night it happened because you don’t know what else to do and the faster you go to sleep, the faster your flight gets here the next day.
- Asking the gentleman in the window seat on your flight home to open the window because you want to see the view that your grandpa now gets every day.
- Forgetting your jacket in the rental car.
- Taking a shot of Fireball the second you get back home (I never said grief wasn’t without it’s vices).
- Getting home to your family and holding every single one of them as tight as you possibly can.
- Taking a life break the weekend before the visitation and the funeral, and feeling guilty about it before you realize that it’s ok.
- Suddenly breaking down in the car when you’re watching a Christmas lights show and a song comes on that reminds you of your grandpa.
- Watching The Santa Clause and sobbing at the end of it. Because your favorite Santa Claus is your grandpa.
- Losing all sense of time and suddenly you blink and two weeks have gone by.
- Laughing your first big “It’s going to be okay” laugh then looking at your phone that has your grandpa as its background, and the laugh stopping dead in your throat.
- Letting the second laugh stay there…because it’s going to be okay.
- Using “Don’t tell me how to grieve” as an off handed, comical way to tell people, “No seriously, don’t tell me how to grieve because I have no idea what I’m doing.”
- Sitting on the lap of a new Santa Claus, and realizing that the new normal comes whether you want it to or not.
- Writing every bit of it out in a blog post because when life doesn’t make sense, writing does.
- Not resenting any part about having the funeral on your birthday, because you saw everyone you loved that day.
- Thanking God every single day for your friends, family, boyfriend, coworkers, and incredible support system, because you realize that the loneliness you faced in the beginning is what some face every day.
I had my first “normal” week back at work this week. I’m back to my “normal” life with my “normal” plans I had in place. Normal is about as weird as grief is because nothing will ever be normal again (that’s grief too). We’re back to our new “normal” and that’s okay.
I miss that man every day. But when I think of him, I smile. I see him around every corner, especially at Christmas time. The first thing I heard on my birthday morning was a train whistle, and I know it was grandpa saying, “Happy Birthday!” So even though it’s been weird, and it’s never going to be “normal”…it’s going to be okay. So, year 28? It’s not such a bad start.