The last few days in Atlanta have been rainy and stormy and generally nasty. I went out last night to see Wesley Cook with Angie Aparo at Smith's Olde Bar, with my friend Kristi. I quickly found myself soaked and ankle-deep in a torrential flash flood. This morning dawned beautiful; lingering dark clouds were being pushed away by stunning sunshine, when I ran out to get a last-minute Christmas gift.
On my way home, I was stopped by a funeral procession.
I started to cry.
I have no idea who died. It wasn't someone I know. I don't know if they were young or old, healthy or ill. But there were about thirty cars in the procession, inching their way through a major intersection, flanked by police motorcycles.
Someone is going to be sorely missed this holiday season.
It started me thinking about the people I miss, the ones who aren't with me for Christmas—friends and family alike. My paternal grandfather tops that list. He died in March of 2006, and I miss him every single day.
He was an amazing man, simple and sweet and funny and loving and caring. He and my grandmother were married for more than 50 years. They had four wonderful children, seven granddaughters, and two great-grandsons. My elder son remembers him quite clearly, by my younger was just over a year old when we lost Paw-paw Red.
He was a Jack-of-all-trades—a welder and an electrician and a fur trapper. He was also a magician in his youth, and the family was regularly treated to slight-of-hand and funny tricks. One of my favorite pictures ever is of him eating fire in a tuxedo, as part of his show. Many of us granddaughters had magic shows by Paw-paw for our birthday parties, and it was always phenomenal fun.
What I remember most is the twinkle in his blue eyes. He was always full of good-natured mischief, with a slick wit and quick smile. He would give anyone anything that he ever thought they needed. I always knew I'd gotten my flashing Irish temper from him (note the "Quinn" in Stephanie Quinn Jackson). At his funeral, I also realized where I'd gotten my long thumbs.
More importantly, what I got from my grandfather was a shining example of how to love the people who matter. Even though he worked hard, long hours, he was always there with a hug and a smile when we needed it. He was interested and encouraging and concerned. He and my grandmother raised the most functional family I've ever personally known. There were about 300 people at his wake and funeral. Four different men told me that my grandfather was their best friend. That is a testament to a life well-lived.
DH and the boys and I are staying in Atlanta for Christmas this year, for the first time since we moved here. It will be very strange not to be at my grandmother's house with the huge extended family, and I will miss them very much. But I know my grandfather would want us to do what's right for our family. I know he'll be there, and here, with us in spirit.
And I know each and every one of the Quinn clan will miss him in their own way. I won't be the only one smiling through bittersweet tears when we think of him.
I hope the family I saw today finds some comfort in their own cherished memories. I hope they are able to find some solace in what will undoubtedly be a difficult time. If you have someone that you're missing this holiday season, I hope your fondest and sweetest memories of them will ease your dismay and help to settle your heart.
Life is a precious, finite commodity, and we should all take every opportunity to tell everyone we love that we love them and why we love them, to tell them that they matter to us. Find the people who matter to you, no matter how near or far, and take a moment to tell them that you love them. If they're far away, a heartfelt phone call or email will matter more than you may know. If they're close by, pull them closer and don't let go, ever, no matter what.
Thank you—all of you—for the time you take to read my blog or chime in on my Facebook page. It matters, a lot, to me that you're there and giving me encouragement when I need it. I hope you have a wonderful and beautiful holiday with your own friends and family. I hope you find love and joy, in your heart and others'.