Dear Grandpa : A Merry Christmas Letter
It’s almost Christmas Eve here in Jakarta Indonesia, and by the time I’m writing this, my grandmother is sleeping behind my back - she just spent her 3 hours being stuck in traffic jam, post-landing from Yogyakarta on her way from the airport. The big city’s road is mean to the old people, but my grandmother managed to stay calm (as she always does). I haven’t seen her since I visited the hometown two months ago, and I couldn’t be happier to see her here for real after the long months of grief we got through… the months after my beloved grandfather passed away.
For the first time since August, I finally let my feeling poured into words. I finally let myself write about my grandfather, and I finally let some hours to be spent typing long post in the screen again. But more than just typing flat letters into the keyboard, I’m finally letting myself be honest with my heart - to speak with no fear that somewhere inside, there has been a war. Not the kind of war that we can easily describe because we know exactly who fights in the field, but rather a silent one happened underground... the one we mostly don’t notice during days. The one war that was carried by Night, because it slowly crept into our consciousness when we let the outer world shut itself down in darkness - literally, and metaphorically.
I am at war with my own sadness, with my loss and despair - and dealing with the fact that the more I neglect them, the more I’m shrinking, slowly.
(I found it rather funny that many days I look at other people hiding their deepest feeling behind routines and scripted lifestyle, thinking how completely sorry I am for their pathetic attempt of running from their soul while doing the exact same thing myself.)
Now is the 26th Christmas Eve in my life as a human being, also the first one my family and I will spend without the presence of our ever-loving grandfather. A couple of weeks back nothing seems bizarre - but when the Christmas Mass is just around the corner, I realize how strange it is that we didn’t set up a Christmas Tree in the house for the first time in 26 years. I can’t let myself lie: we are all having a hard time losing Grandpa. He was the one who always prepared the house with the festive Christmas decor, checking things out for the Christmas Mass, arranging the Christmas dinner. This year, this very night, after months of flirting with ignorance and logic, I let myself moan. I do miss him very much, and there’s no way I can get over the longing forever. I don't usually pretend to be okay, but apparently things are different now. That brought me to realize how much his passing have changed me and everyone around him, and I want him to know why.
So I write him this letter.
It’s Christmas and we all missed you so much. Too many memories we shared between us and each of them popped in my mind every time I tried my best not to. Not because I don’t want to remember you, but rather because I’m ashamed that I might not be strong enough to let the sadness challenge my day. I need to tell you now that for each moment I reject our memory; I am wrong. I am wrong about being afraid of weakness because you’ve made me realize through these months what strength actually mean: not power or fortitude, but rather acceptance and forgiveness.
You lived your life without ever worrying about whether you are happy or not - you chose to feel enough, and that keeps you in humble gratitude for eternity. You decide not to hold a grudge against anything in life because you’ve mastered the art of accepting things as they are, and that leads you to forgive easily. It took me a while to realize that by doing so, nothing can hurt you - we only let ourselves be weak when we let the ego lead our desire to win over something, while you, you have settled in feeling enough and wanting nothing more for yourself because you see this life as kind. True strength comes when we surrender on what we believe are ours, and willing to accept the what’s not. You never spoke once to me about that, but the past 26 years you’ve shown more than enough for me to finally see.
I’ve rewound my remembrance for too many times lately because I want to commemorate the day I saw you for the last time, before the funeral. You looked angelic in your best Javanese beskap suit in soft gold hue, along with blangkon in your head and rosary beads in your entwined fingers. Thousands of relatives and friends came in tears from day to day, telling us how much you were loved and respected for your service to the air-force, the neighbourhood and the church community. In my life, I’ve learned how you were such a good and loving person, but I never knew how your small but consistent act of kindness affecting the life of people around you profoundly. That they will come to me and told me how thankful they are to have known you in their life. Back then I was wondering - what have you done to deserve it all? Yet I understood, you've done everything you were capable of, for the sake of others. You’re not the typical hero who got the fame by being remembered by everyone in the society, but you have secured a special place in the heart of everyone you loved the most… and that kind of reminiscence (of the way you’ll be remembered), I finally learnt - is the most important legacy to leave.
I must concede, losing you is the worst kind of broken heart I’ve got to move on from, and not because I don’t know how to heal a wounded heart… but more because there’s no wound to start with. There’s only a void in the somewhat unidentified surface, percolated into an immense depth or length, waiting for the time to tell. My heart isn’t broken into smaller pieces. It exploded and crashed into an infinite tiny flame of dust, striving to find a shape they once fitted in. My bones are wriggled from the quiet tense they chained into. The waves of rushing blood in my strained vein are screaming out of distress. Inside and out I am jaded, but there’s this immanent light that lit my soul rocket-fast, gleaming over the stillness, when I look at the empty corner where we usually build our Christmas Tree and understand: we no longer need one. All this time we frame a physical Christmas Tree with blinking lights because we need a portrayal of Hope that we can touch, or gaze into. This time we might decide not to build one because we have no longer need to seek hope from elsewhere; since we have your spirit gone into our heart - you are our Hope, our Christmas Tree.
Your massive affection and absolute compassion flourished inside our mind and soul, guiding us to persevere the faith you’ve lived these 75 years.
I will allow myself to miss you as much as I can, every day, and accept my limited ability to avoid breaking down. Things will be easier to fix after I decide to forgive myself as opposed to despising it. Your passing was tough for me but I have accepted that as an end that leads into a dutiful beginning. Christmas will be over soon and when New Year come, I promise my life will no longer be spent for granted again.
Kung, Merry Christmas. May your sleep will be eternally peaceful. You’ll live in me, forever and ever.
Your little astra,
The last couple months I looked at myself and questioned whenever I can: “What’s the heart say?” and not knowing for sure what to answer. But reinforced by the love of my grandfather and his great actions that done in such modesty, this very Christmas I'm eventually able to smile at myself and answered, “The heart is thankful for what life brings and delighted to embrace more kindness in the making.”
Christmas is never about the sparkling tree and glittery gifts. It’s about the birth of a new hope and letting go past miseries. This year, six months after my grandfather gone and for the first time ever in my life, I’m collecting the most precious gift in my history: the glistening faith from my inner Christmas Tree.
Joyeux Noel, us all. Let the faith be forever with you.
Ad Astra! xx
*My beloved grandfather, Agustinus Hananto, passed away after his 75th birthday in a quiet Saturday morning last August 15th, 2015. "Dear Grandpa" is a series of blog post inspired by all the things that I want to tell him after he's gone.