Roses in December

02 Nov 2011

At The Guardian, Steven Hepburn ponders praying for non-believers:

If religion did not speak to the deepest sighs and longings of the human heart then it would be as well not to speak at all. Of these sighs few are more profound than those offered up for the death of one we love.

As the last remaining vestiges of summer slip away and fall begins to touch the trees, I find myself thinking about my grandfather.

He was a man I did not get the opportunity to know, although I fiercely hold onto the few memories that I have: pipes that I am not sure I ever saw him smoke; hugs from a Lazy-Boy that engulfed my entire body; watching him play Pac-Man on an old Atari. Each memory trickles through my mind, bringing forth other drips and it is not long before those few recollections become a flood of remembrance that abruptly returns me to the night that he passed away.

Closure is a concept that I have never understood. How can something ever be over? No matter how much time there is between his death and the now, I will forever be shaped by that 2am phone call. Closure implies an ending, that something has finished, but our lives do not work in that way. Our shape is forever evolving, being added to by the experiences that we face and people that touch our lives. There can be no closure with regards to my grandfather, because he is not gone–he is as much a part of my being as my hands are.

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December” and so that I might have my grandfather in the fall of 2011.1 The feel of his scratchy beard, the sound of his booming voice from across the house, the smell of his tobacco stained skin. These are what get left behind. His body was just the way that those memories were passed onto me.

All Souls’ Day is coming to an end and Catholics have come together, not to mourn those gone away but to acknowledge that their community is greater than the sum of those present. Likewise, with myself. January is approaching and, as always, my thoughts will return to my grandfather, not as a morbid recollection, but as an acknowledgement of the man who came before me and who, forever, will be a part of the man that I am.

  1. James Matthew Barrie