Grief at Christmas time

Going to a funeral is always awkward. In my experiences, I go and watch and watch and then try to move toward the family. This week I went to a funeral again, death is part of life.

Andrews First Loss:

When my sister Patty passed away almost suddenly in 2008, she left behind her son Andrew. He was three years old at the time. He didn’t understand what was happening. One day, he went to his grandmother Mary’s house, but he always did that on Mondays. That Monday Patty went to the hospital and Andrew never saw his momma again. When he asked for her and cried for her, he couldn’t grasp the reality of never ever seeing her again. 

I don’t know what it’s like to grow up without a mother, gracias a Dios I had the privilege of having my ama throughout my childhood. For the next 14 years Andrew had his dad, Deidra and his grandma Mary. Aside from his emotional meltdowns at the sight of me and my sis he has done very well. He is a handsome and sweet young man who strives to excel. 

I knew Andrew’s grandmother through Patty’s daughter in law experience. Mary loved my sister. She pulled her into the family and Patty was so grateful for a mother in law that helped her and loved her. Mary made herself available to Patty when she had Andrew, in her recovery and her return to work. She treated her like a daughter and me and my sister Marina rested in that. I’m pleased to write here that Patty loved Mary right back and was grateful to her. We, my sis and I loved Mary too for stepping in for Patty and helping to nurture our sweet nephew. Mary was 92, she hung on participating in Andrews extracurricular activities as much as her body would allow her. Gracias a Dios, Andrew had his grandma almost into adulthood.

Andrews Second Loss

A couple of weeks ago I got one of those calls from David, Andrew’s dad. He was to the point, “Rosie, I’m just calling to let you know that my mom passed away this morning” I was so sorry to hear that, what about Andrew I thought? Pero, I collected myself and gave David my condolences “David, I’m sorry” What else is there to say? He asked if I would let my sister and family know and I assured him that I would. I had to know how Andrew was, David said he was ok. I texted Andrew, I wanted to call him, because I should pick up the phone, yet I knew Andrew wouldn’t talk to me. In time Andrew responded to my text, usually we second guess a person’s mood on text, but I could almost feel his lonely heart through that text.

Then I called my sis, her concern too was Andrew. How is he? When’s the funeral? I didn’t have answers, Dave would let us know the details.

Another funeral

We drove to the funeral with that heaviness that death brings. Everyone was standing around outside, waiting. The big black hearse which carried Mary’s body was surrounded by her grandsons and great grandsons. They stood very close to the carroza waiting for the signal to move her into the church. We went to Andrew and when he saw us, he gave me a half a hug. I said, “give me a real hug” We both embraced very uncomfortably.

Catholic mass or misa is a quiet affair usually, but for Marys mass the family had hired Mariachis, music that is rich in culture and emotion. One song they sang was one of my amas favorite songs. The words brought life in the midst of that funeral. It was hard not to clap in appreciation for those beautiful lyrics, mira: “Senor, me has mirado a los ojos” did the others understand? “Lord, you’ve looked into my eyes” My goodness! I remembered that beautiful day that I actually noticed when Jesus looked into my eyes and I was changed from that day forward.Thank goodness nobody could hear my thoughts, still I looked around because they were like fireworks going off at the memory of my beautiful conversion experience.

Ashes To Ashes, Dust To Dust

At the burial, I was awkward as always. My sis, she’s very thoughtful to participate and give her condolences. I didn’t want to do it. As I watched the interesting burial traditions of releasing the doves and tossing earth onto the casket I ruminated on the crooked paths death takes at times. 

Again I was glad nobody could hear my thoughts, my tears escaped. I cried for Andrew. I was busy regretting Pattys death, tan joven, she died at such a young age, especially when she had a toddler to raise. It is the natural order of life to bury our elderly when they reach a ripe old age. My apa was 96 when he died and while it is so lonely and painful, we make our brains kick start quicker into living again. I ran back to that day when my sister died and Andrew had no idea that the most important woman in his life had left him without notice. That day I didn’t even think of Andrew, I was lost in my loss, but as Andrew buried his grandma this week, now I could weep for him. He worked really hard at mastering his emotions or at least his tears. He flared his nostrils, his nose red from secret tears. I wanted so much to hug him again and tell him how sorry I was and so I did. Pero, Andrew had to be strong, his primos were around him and I was awkward some more. I just asked “Andrew, where is your mom’s gravestone? (Mary was buried very near Patty) and I had to go there, it had been a long time. I didn’t like going there, it was a reminder of the pain, and besides I knew she wasn’t even there.  Andrew pointed and said “She’s just over there by that big tree” I guess he didn’t see that there were many big trees. Eventually we found her gravestone. Marina talked to her, getting on Patty  for laughing at us as we walked in circles trying to find her. I prayed for Andrew there at his mothers graveside. Then Thomas took a picture of us during our short visit. 

Our Hope

 My apa, ama and sisters are in a better place, Jesus  was Lord of their lives. I didn’t feel right to participate in the ceremony, perhaps I should have, no se, my brain keeps arguing that all those touching traditions don’t soothe, they hurt. I loved Andrew’s grandma Mary and I was glad to support Andrew and my brother in law. Andrew sent us a sweet text thanking us. 

Funerals are so final, I miss Andrew’s mom and I’m certain he misses his Grandma Mary and yet we must go on. I came home to finish the Christmas season. Por supuesto, that it is sad and lonely to experience death at Christmas, es obvio that funerals can put a “wet blanket” on Christmas. It is my choice to replace it, with a cozy throw of peace and joy. After my respectful condolences have been given, I choose to rejoice at Christmas. It is a beautiful season for me, I pull my loved ones in close and to anyone who will listen to my joyful Christmas pasts I give them an earful 🥰 Gracias a Dios, that while I wait to see my loved ones again, the ones we’ve buried, I have these beautiful memories to enjoy and share.

Twenty two days until Christmas, I wish and  I hope to see Andrew again soon and bring him some Christmas joy. 

Que Dios los bendiga, enjoy the hustle and bustle 🙂