We are in the last few days of 2014. I haven't posted since Christmas Eve and I know that there are some people reading who wouldn't ordinarily read by blog. In that spirit, here I am.
Actually, that's a good title for this post, so I'll do just that.
This year's Christmas was about as un-Christmas-y (is that a word?) as it gets. Drew and I didn't want to be here in our home for our first Christmas as parents with no children. The two previous Christmases were different, because we only had Alex and not Emma. They were Christmas because we had a little one, even though we were missing Emma. As you know, this year we planned to spend the week of Christmas in Mexico, laying on the beach. Of course, that didn't go as planned and instead we were here at home planning my Dad's memorial service.
Christmas Day in itself was just another day as far as commercial and social traditions are concerned. Drew and I didn't put up a tree or decorations, we didn't buy gifts for each other and we didn't watch the Disney parade that morning. Instead, we went to a movie with Dottie & Jessica. We saw Unbroken and I have to say that it was excellent. I recommend it, in general. If it's Christmas Day and you are thinking about the previous years with your children and grieving the loss of your father, it is probably a bit too heavy and depressing.
Drew posed the question of why God keeps putting these things on us, specifically around Christmas. My only answer is this... similar to the Grinch's realization (that Christmas doesn't come from boxes and bows), but with God. Plenty of people like to talk about what CHRISTmas is about (liking to use that specific capitalization for emphasis), but they still celebrate all the social parameters of the holiday season. God has stripped much of that away for us. All that's left is God. Isn't that what Christians say Christmas "should" be, anyway? Yes. The Bible doesn't talk about decorations and trees and presents, it is simply the birth of Christ. We celebrate it on December 25th, but that is just human convenience. Scholars vary greatly on what time of year they think Jesus was born, but it's my understanding that December 25th was chosen partly because it coincided with a pagan celebration. My point? It's not the specific day. It's not the social norms that we conform to around the holidays. For me, especially having had so much stripped away in the last few years, it's Christ. It's personal and intimate. The celebration of Christ remains even when the tradition of past years is removed.
Dad's memorial service was Friday. Thank you to everyone who came to honor his memory and support our family. There's never a convenient time to deal with this, but the week of Christmas was particularly bad timing for those out of town to make the drive in to Northwest Arkansas. Thank you all for your presence, thoughts and prayers.
Want to know a secret? It was weird. No, not the service, just the whole thing. I have a much different emotional state with my dad's passing than I did with my girls. I had peace (though incredible sadness) when each of my girls passed. With Dad, it was so unexpected. He wasn't well, but his death was definitely not anticipated. There was no final goodbye. There was no closure. I thought that the memorial service would give me some closure, but it didn't. This is where I had a realization. Cremation. It never really bothered me. Some people are opposed to it because of the thought of Christ's return and that our bodies will be raised and cremation might interfere with that. That doesn't bother me. The bodies that have been in the ground for hundreds of years are no more than dust now and if Christ means to raise them then I don't think that burial or cremation will stand in His way. What I now know I don't like about cremation is the lack of finality. I've never been big on viewing a deceased body (really, who would be?) and I didn't think it served any purpose for me personally. I've never wanted to see that person as anything other than what my memories left me with. That all made sense to me until my Dad's memorial service was over and I realized that it felt no more final than it had before the service. His ashes were in a pretty box and that was it. I don't know for certain that the lack of a body is the reason, but I think it's part of it. Psychologically, I'd be interested to know how the brain processes different manners of grief, in respect to cremation versus burial of a loved one. At least now I have a better understanding of why my Grandpa feels the way he does about cremation.
So, Dad's gone. He was a good man. A flawed man. He was my Dad and I miss him. I haven't hit the brick wall of grief yet and I don't know if I will. Perhaps it will come on in different variations in the coming weeks, months and years. One day at a time, that's all we can do. There's nothing more to say about it.
Yesterday would have been Alex's 12th birthday. January 1st will mark one year since she died. I guess I don't have much to say on that right now. Maybe I will later, I don't know.
Other things we've been doing? House hunting. I think I've mentioned our desire to move several times in the last 6 months, but this weekend was the first time that we actually drove around and looked at homes. We lucked out and found several open houses, so we were able to really explore and investigate. We had Grandpa on our minds and were wondering if he would need to move in with us soon. This weekend were all ready to call the bank and gets things rolling... and then we pulled the reigns back a little. My Uncle Matt is considering moving down here to live with Grandpa. That is what Grandpa is hoping for and it would allow him to stay in the current house and keep as much of his life a 'normal' as possible. Knowing that gave me a different perspective. What's the saying... Don't make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions? Yeah, well, that can surely only apply to a certain degree. I mean, if something huge happens once a year, then when are you never having a surge of emotions? No matter, we are slowing the process a little, giving it a little time and trusting that we will know when the time is right. We feel like we would like to have a few more ducks in a row before we are fully prepared to take on a new mortgage, but that doesn't change the fact that we had a great time looking and researching. When the day comes (sooner or later) that we are ready to jump in, I think we will feel confident that we have given the decision full consideration and ration. Even so, it sure is hard to be patient sometimes.