I visited their graves today.
Stirling and Daryl.
Sometimes I stumble over their names because they aren’t used very often. I don’t even know how to refer to them, really. Do I refer to them as my grandparents? As my Dad’s parents?
Stories of their lives are few and far between, I assume because the memories are blanketed by sorrow. We will most likely watch our parents die, but not when we are sixteen. I grew up knowing that they had died, knowing there were a few pictures of them scattered about the house, and knowing where they had lived and what they had done.
But I didn’t know what made them laugh. I didn’t know what recipes my Grandmother made for Thanksgiving dinner, or if my Grandfather smoked a pipe on the steps of his store.
It was my first experience of feeling another’s loss: of being desperately sad for my Dad and the loss of his parents. And then, as I grew older, it was my first taste of grieving what wouldn’t be.
There would be no second set of grandparents at school assemblies.
There would be a couple missing at every wedding, at every funeral.
There would be no conversations that began with, “When your dad was young …”
It’s a loss that I wonder about. Even though they passed away long before I was born, they are still a part of me. And I wonder about that part. I wonder what of them I carry with me.
But what they’ve taught me in their absence is to live well. To live between the beginning and the end as fervently as I can. To love deeply, to remember that my life, no matter how short or how long, impacts the next generation. I am a part of a story bigger than me.
Just as Stirling and Daryl were.