You can spend years and years and years being ok...only to completely fall apart when you least expect it.
Which is exactly what happened to me on St. Patrick's Day, when an old, old grief came roaring back to life.
You see, St. Pat's was my beloved grandfather's favorite day. He was a man who loved his Irish heritage, and every year he and my mom would go a little crazy with their celebrations. For the most part, the rest of us would just look on...shaking our heads and enjoying the little extra bits they would throw our way....considering ourselves lucky that we were allowed to eat their corned beef! It was almost as if they had their own little club and no one else quite made the cut.
I wanted in.
I wanted in BADLY.
Fortunately, that was a wish that came true.
By the time I was a teenager Mom and Grampa had finally decided that I was one of them, and so once a year I would ignore my mostly German background to celebrate that small part of me that was Irish through and through. I loved every minute...and I loved that extra bond with my Grampa, who loved me more than anyone else ever has.
I was a very lucky girl.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of his passing.
I long ago worked through the worst of the pain. Grampa's death was sudden and traumatic, and I was lucky enough to have been seeing a counselor when it happened and smart enough to take full advantage of that and of a grief counseling group that my university offered. I was also truly blessed with the friends who surrounded me and in the opportunities I had that year. I was very well cared for, and now when I think back to that time what really comes to mind first and foremost is how loved I was.
So it was a bit of a surprise when grief hit me anew last week...as if the death was days old instead of decades.
There was a trigger.
For years and years the only green I have worn on St. Pats is the two tiny stained glass shamrock pins my grandfather made. When I went to put them on this year I could only find one, despite the fact that they've lived together in the same drawer forever. I spent an hour searching the house, convinced that I had done something stupid last year, and finally had to leave with only one shamrock pinned to my sweater.
The good news is that I did find it later. It had fallen out of the drawer of my jewelry box and was underneath it - completely safe and unharmed. The bad news is that I was rattled and as soon as that second pin was in place the tears began.
And I cried.
I texted my brother...who told me I was not, in fact, being ridiculous. (Thank you Erin)
I called my Gram so that we could mourn together for a moment. (Sorry Gram)
Then I did something about it - because wallowing never helped anyone, and because grief - as much as it hurts - actually is a gift.
I say that because it's one of the first great truths I learned in life. When you grieve, it's a sign that you were blessed with love in your life. Yes, it totally sucks...there's no getting around to that...but if you put in the work, allow yourself to truly feel what you feel, and focus on all of those good memories you can come through it with a profound gift.
So I took that gift - and decided to turn something beautiful - to take the reminder of the love that I had been so generously blessed with through my very Irish grandfather and manifest it in real life...a symbol that I could hold on to.
You know where this is going, right?
There just so happened to be a skein of Irish green silk laceweight yarn in my stash - something I bought once upon a time and have been saving for a special occasion
There also just so happens to be a gorgeous lace shamrock pattern in one of my vintage lace books. I've loved that pattern for a very long time, but for some reason I'd never worked it up.
Before the sun set on St. Patrick's Day I had worked the center portion of the piece. I spent all of my spare time with it over the next three weeks, finishing it just yesterday. I'm not entirely sure what I will do with the finished piece. It could be used as a scarf...but it could also dress my Grampa's roll-top desk. I'm sure it will tell me what it wants to do when it is time.
For now, I run my hands across the shamrocks and smile.
Beauty from Heartache.
Love made Real.