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Share: The Center of My Heart

Gram & Gramps, October 2007, 60th Anniversary Celebration

A few years ago, just months after my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary celebration, my extended family was gathered on Christmas Day in the great room of my aunt's cabin. From that day, I hold in my memory a striking vignette of my octogenarian grandparents. The snapshot in my mind reminds me of a movie scene in which everything slows down for the spotlighted characters while, all around them, the sounds remain at normal speed and intensity. That Christmas afternoon, I had spied my gray-haired grandparents seated on a couch in the center of the room, quietly holding hands and contently observing the noisy chaos that always accompanies our multi-generational family at the holidays.

In that sudden glimpse of Gram and Gramps, my heart simultaneously sunk and rose as I recognized the poignant transition that had occurred while no one seemed to have noticed. My grandparents, once the prominent heads of the family, actively leading the festivities, were that day at once present and distant. They were physically present, sitting literally in the center of the family. Yet they were separate: in that moment not interacting with a single one of their six children, eleven grandchildren or even one of the great-grandchildren. Though situated in the middle of the room, they were apart, almost as if they had already begun their departure from this earth. While we certainly all wanted my grandparents there with us, Gram and Gramps had no responsibilities: We had taken care of everything.

Following the sorrow of that realization came a feeling of love and assurance that this vibrant family—the one started by those two loving people clasping age-spotted hands—would continue its gatherings, with or without the physical presence of its founders.

The moment passed fleetingly that Christmas but has throbbed with intensity these few years in my heart and my mind. Early this year, when the snow began melting as winter turned to spring, my grandpa breathed his last breath. This December, our family—the family my grandpa cherished until his life’s end—will gather as we always have. We’ll work to prepare a big ham, some baked potatoes, the family fruit salad. We’ll bring cookies and pies and krumkake.

And we’ll raise our glasses to toast the memory of Gramps, who, at the center of my heart, will sit quietly among us always.


Whose memory do you hold in the center of your heart? What traditions help you honor your loved one? Connect with me on twitter (@LearnExploreShr or @Grief_Friend) or leave a comment below.