Around this time of year, families get together to embrace one another and celebrate the Holidays. For one or two days, everyone is in the same room, everyone is a unit. After every bit of food has been consumed and folks are getting ready to say goodbye, people have the same thought, "We should do this more often" or "I'll see you soon" and then those good intentions melt away and we drift to the hustle and bustle that is working and trying to stay afloat.
My Godfather passed away in April. I only have one memory of how he looked. We met when I was 21 years old, newly graduated, in a Starbucks in Lincoln Center. He was in from Vermont where he lived with his partner. He was wearing a three piece grey suit and greeted me with a smile I can still see if I close my eyes. My Godfather was an amazing man-a professor beloved by hundreds of friends (literally), a writer, and an accomplished concert violinist who spoke 6 languages! I heard much of this from hearing stories my Father told me of how he met him and how close the families were. When I was growing up, I always wondered why he didn't reach out to me, why I hadn't seen him or spoken to him on the phone but I didn't linger on that thought, I had stories to keep his memory alive. When I turned 21, my Godfather sent me a typed letter apologizing for his absence and suggested we meet in person for a long overdue hug. Since then, we sent each other cards, mine always handwritten, his always typed and signed with a fountain pen. I sent pictures and drawings over the years and provided him with news about my Dad and Grandmother. Whenever my Dad was in NY, he would call my Godfather's NY apartment in the hopes that Godfather might be visiting and they could catch up. Then, he started to email me. Oh technology!
One day before Superstorm Sandy, my Grandmother passed. I sent him an email. Rather than respond via that, he sent his last typed letter signed with that same fountain pen. Because of the weather, I missed the funeral in Grenada. Godfather's letter was one of the only things that comforted my Father and I during that sad time. He wrote about her so beautifully citing memories that seemed so crisp they happened yesterday. This summer, I sent him an email but he didn't respond. In my head, I imagined that he was on a European tour with his partner Jorge, or on an adventure somewhere he would tell me about in his response but, no email came. I started to think about the inevitable, his passing, but I couldn't bring myself to google his name right away. The thought of losing this man who I basically communicated with through letter and email most of my adult life scared and saddened me.
I found out Godfather passed away in April of this year. I was so angry with myself. Why didn't I send an email earlier? Why didn't I reach out? More importantly, why wasn't I told or able to go to the funeral to say goodbye? It seemed that even in death, I wasn't even given the chance to see him in person one more time. I gave my Dad the news and he was as broken up as I was. Luckily, my Godfather's partner's email address was on my his obituary. I emailed Jorge my condolences. Here was a man who I had only heard about on paper but seemed so alive through my Godfather's descriptions of him, I felt like I knew him. He immediately sent me a response apologizing for the oversight of the funeral. My Godfather passed from leukemia and it took him very fast.
After our exchange, I hoped to have some closure but I felt even more sad. Whenever someone passes, you always ask yourself the question "What if?" and go back to the "We should do this more often. I'll see you soon!" statement you made a few months prior. Days later, I received another email. Jorge had found a folder with all the letters and exchanges I had with my Godfather over the years, over 13 years of correspondence! He told me how proud he was of me and how he loved me. While I would have rather heard this when he was alive, this has given me exactly what I needed-to know that he saw me, that we did know each other, even though from afar. Today, he is on my mind. The first day of Hannukah marks the day I would have sent him a handwritten Holiday card. Perhaps I will send him an email. Even though I know I won't get one back, it doesn't feel right to break from tradition.
I don't want this to sound like a hold your loved ones close and be thankful post and maybe it doesn't but hold your loved ones close and be thankful. You never know when the time will come when you can't say what you always wanted to but thought, it's ok...next time.