Advent 3.2: For you

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First we were waiting for you to get better.

Then we were waiting for you to die.

From the first Sunday of Advent to the third, everything changed.

And you did die. Quietly. By yourself. As December 18, 2013 slipped in, you slipped out.

That was almost the biggest oddity and irony, I felt, of the whole three weeks of waiting: you were quiet. You couldn't speak anymore, or joke, or sing, or snap if someone was blocking your view of the football game. The only rumbles now came from the deep recesses of your chest and lungs, mouth open, swallow reflex gone, bacteria seeping in.

If you had to die, couldn't you at least have been allowed to be yourself until the end?

We tried to be boisterous for you. That's always been easy for us, thanks to you, in good times and bad. Singing and laughing and surrounding your bed. I hope you understood, as you flickered in and out, the truth and the hope and the beauty of what you'd created in your 86 years, the legacy you left on this earth. Not just those of us in the room that last weekend, but the countless others whose lives you touched with your generosity, your humor, your faith, and your humility.

I don't believe God plans bad things to happen or when they happen, but I do believe God is with us through them. And it somehow seemed hauntingly, devastatingly appropriate that you died one week before Christmas Day. I never asked you if December 25 was your favorite day of the year, but through a granddaughter's eyes, it sure seemed like it. And that made it my favorite day, too.

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Besides your cheery scrawling letters and memories of your voice, the greatest gift I have of yours is the green embroidered stool that was your throne on Christmas morning. I hope someday we will use it again, a new generation of parents and grandparents pulling gift after gift from under the tree and watching the joyful faces of children as they rip open the paper. And I hope that they will realize that the presents don't matter half as much as the love behind them, the significance of family gathered together, the laughter and fellowship that will give the gift of memories for decades beyond.

Tonight after work we will visit your grave on the sloping hill in the chilly rain, weather that mirrors the day we buried you. We will think not of the three weeks of waiting before you bowed out of the spotlight, but of the 86 years that shone before. Your sons will most likely imitate your most famous family lines, your daughter will probably hum one or two of your favorite hymns.

I will think about how four years, 1,460 days, feels like both a snap and an everlasting sea.

Always waiting for you.