The grandmother to some of my cousins passed away Monday evening. I grew up pretty far away from my grandparents, but this woman lived in my hometown. She and her husband became another set of grandparents to us. We weren't super close to them - we didn't visit them very often. However, I have vague memories of being there when I was much younger. Not only that, but my family and I have gone to sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas to them on Christmas Eve for years. Grandpa Jackson died several years ago, but we continued to make our annual visit after he passed. Two of Grandma Jackson's daughters and their families also live in my hometown, and those who are around are always gathered together for Christmas Eve. When we arrive each Christmas Eve, we knock and once Grandma Jackson or some other family member opens the door we start singing, and whoever answers the door hollers to everyone else, "The Christensens are here!" and some of them come to the door to listen to our one verse of the song. Then they invite us in, and we chat with everyone who is there. The Jacksons are a wonderful, friendly family, and they have always made us feel welcome and a part of them when we visit. Last year, when we got to Grandma Jackson's no one was there. Huh! We figured they must be at one of the kid's that year, and we knew we had two choices. "Let's track them down!" we said, so we did. When they opened the door, we sang as usual and told them afterwards that they couldn't hide from us - Nosiree!! And they said, "We were worried about that. It's not Christmas until the Christensens come and sing to us." It has become as much as a tradition for some of them as it has for us. I am so glad we went and found them last year - we didn't know it would be the last Christmas we would sing to Grandma.
My sisters and brother-in-law and I drove home yesterday to go to the viewing, where we were welcomed. Grandma Jackson looked so tiny. I'm glad I got to touch her hand one last time. Today we went to the funeral. My mom got to help play most of the music for it, and she did a wonderful job - I consider myself to be talented at sight-reading, but I could not have pulled off what she did today. The services were really beautiful. I didn't think I was going to be very emotional. I loved her, but I believe this life isn't the end, and she lived a very good, long life here, so I didn't think it would upset me too much. During the first song I learned otherwise. I was really glad that I had a tissue in my purse from the night before. I don't know why I bothered putting makeup on before it, either. Anyway, I learned that Grandma was a huge baseball fan. What I was really impressed with, though, was how one of her daughter's told us that Grandma had taught them not to gossip, and I thought about how I need to work on that. Pres. Nelson, the stake president, spoke last. He talked about how constant the Jackson family was. They were a pretty solid, faithful family and a good example to all those around them. I also thought about how I need to try to lead a quiet, constant life like Grandma Jackson did.
After the funeral I got to visit with my aunt and uncle and their children, as well as some of my cousin's cousins, who are kind of like cousins to me, too. I had been thinking, "What will it be like this Christmas without a Grandma Jackson to go sing to?" My quasi-cousin also questioned what it would be like for them when we didn't show up singing this year. I told her mom maybe we would still find them this year and she told me where we should go, so the tradition will hopefully live on. I think it will be a little bittersweet this year, though.