On September the 20th I flew out to visit my grandfather. He'd been in poor health for a while and then got covid, so he was in the hospital.
My mom and I were only going to stay a few days and come back that weekend. But when we arrived at the hospital my grandfather looked us dead in the eyes and said "I'm tired. I got a lot of people waiting for me. And I'm so tired. I just want to sleep for forever."
My mom and I extended our stay for a week.
The first four days there it rained. I don't know if you've ever sat in a hospital, in a dirty city, when it's raining and cold, but it's depressing.
And yet, when I left, honestly I can say it was a lot of fun.
A few years ago my wife's grandmother died. We strapped our kids in the car and drove the 6 hours to grandma's old church. After the service I sat outside with my wife's brother.
"It's kinda weird." He said.
"Well, it's sad. But it's also kinda like a family reunion."
Visiting my grandfather was kind of like that. We were all convinced he was going to pass. So many family members came into town.
And then he recovered!
I mean he was still old, and had lung damage, but he was well enough to leave the hospital.
Then late last week we got the call that he'd passed (I initially wrote this blog in late October).
In the research on grief, the difference between those who grieve well and those who get stuck in depression is - keeping a relationship with the deceased.
I've certainly felt that. His birthday was on the 2nd and I feel compelled to tell his story. It's just a way to keep his memory alive
So I'd like to tell you three short stories.
May you be claimed by many.
While I was there visiting him just about every night my grandfather had multiple visitors. Cousins I'd not seen in 20 years, uncles who lived thousands of mile away, and nieces no one liked all showed up to hold his hand, comb his beard, or feed him pureed peas.
It got to the point that several times the hospital tried to limit the number of visitors to his room.
How beautiful, to be claimed by so many. I hope I live my life in much the same way. I hope to be claimed by many when I'm at my end.
May you use your gifts to draw close to those you love.
My sister is an acclaimed poet. Last year she was published in the best American Poetry of 2022, which, you know, is kind of a big deal. We brought the book to show my grandfather one night. My uncle gave an incredible reading of my sister's poem, The Life of A Writer.
You could tell the prestige of my sister's accomplishment didn't register with my grandfather. He just liked to hear his son talk. He just liked to hear that his granddaughter was doing well.
Most of our accomplishments and gifts are like that. In the face of death they matter only as much as they bring us a little closer to those we care about.
What's important about that poem is not its prestige, but that it created a space for my sister, my uncle, my grandfather and me to make one more memory.
May you have space for your world to stop.
The first Monday I was there was miserable. My grandfather had survived the weekend and everyone had to go back to work.
The world should have stopped but everyone still had to go to work!?
I get it, we all have to eat. Still, I imagine being my grandfather the Monday morning after a weekend of visitors, laying in a hospital bed, waiting for the end alone because your kids have to work.
A therapist I really respect once said "every healthy person grieves just a little bit every day."
I think that's true. If you're reading this you've lived long enough to have lost someone.
And it's okay to take and second and grieve. It's okay to let your world stop for a while.
A few closing thoughts on how to grieve well this holiday season.
While the holidays are fun and enjoyable, they are also a time for grieving and remembering those who we've lost.
One way to grieve well is to continue our relationship with those who have died.
Of course that relationship must change. But it's still important to keep that relationship.
So this is my way of doing that. May you do the same.
May you take time this holiday season to let your world stop for a while.
May you use your gifts to build memories with those you love most while you have them.
May you be claimed by many hands when it's your time to go.
Jordan (the counselor)
We played this song while visiting my grandfather. He really enjoyed it.
If you liked this post, consider this next. I think you'll like it ;) It's more about remembering the important things in life.
Jordan Harris, Ph.D., LMFT-S, LPC-S, received his Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Louisiana Monroe. He is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of Arkansas, USA. In his clinical work, he enjoys working with couples. He also runs a blog on deliberate practice for therapists and counselors at Jordanthecounselor.com.