1997. This was the first Christmas I spent without my grandfather Pap. Just a little over two weeks before Christmas he passed away from cancer. He actually lived with us before his passing. To say it was difficult is mild, but, what I had to go through was nothing compared to my mother who was with him every minute she had and then some. One day I may get around to posting about that time, or the day he died.
Pap always came to our house, no matter where we lived, for Christmas. When my great grandmother was alive he flew in on December 26 so he could spend Christmas with his mother and then our family; my brother and I for the longest time fretted about what would happen if Santa didn't get our letter explaining why he needed to come a day later to our house for Christmas. After my Nana passed away he was at our house before Christmas day. I loved Pap, so his arrival for the holidays always made me happy even if it meant my bedroom would be commandeered as the guest room and I would sleep on the couch. I would often go up to my room and peak to see if he was awake. The man had some saintly patience to put up with me.
The Christmas without Pap stands out, not because it was sad, but, because I felt an even stronger conviction to celebrate the holiday to its fullest. I was sad he was gone of course. Yet, in that typical fashion I knew he would want us to remember him and live our lives and celebrate. He even said so, in so many words, before he died. Though we didn't spend Christmas day together we did so much before he died that it was almost as if we had two Christmases that year. I will never forget my mother wheeling him out, while I was practicing, from his room so he could hear me play Christmas music on the piano he had bought me. The look on his face will never, ever leave my memory.
I felt sad today remembering this time and other difficult Christmases, but, then I realized how much strength I had even after Pap passed away. I watched him battle cancer, with such integrity though he was in a so much pain and the emotional side of facing death, I can't even imagine. His last gift to me was showing me how to be brave and strong, and how to find goodness and happiness even amongst the darkest of hours. Thank you Pap, though you are gone, you continue to teach me more and more. One of the most amazing gifts any person can give another.