Without you

Loss of family member prompts change for the holidays


Senior Ali Richter poses with her grandfather, Edgar Allen Richter. Richter passed away Nov. 1, at the age of 76. Submitted photo

Story by Ali Richter, copy editor

The room is teeming with the anxiousness to get a plate and pile it high with all the Thanksgiving food sitting before us. Turkey and dressing, stuffing, twice baked potatoes, squash casserole, sweet potato pie, cranberry sauce, and angel biscuit rolls, all part of the usual spread. But something is missing this year, and it’s not a dish Nana forgot to make.

On Nov. 1 my poppy passed away. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer, but my family thought he had a while before death’s cold grip tightened around him. A short two weeks passed between his diagnosis and his death. The sting of the suddenness of his death was lessened when I realized he didn’t have to suffer through painful nights in the hospital or days where he would struggle to function like normal.

It was so hard to say goodbye. To see his cold, still body that was once so full of life and love and laughter. To look at pictures of his wonderful life and realize that it’s over. To go to a funeral for someone you had just seen and talked to only four short days before that. To see my dad, my aunt, my nana crying like I had never seen before.

With his death so fresh during the holidays, it’s easy to feel his loss everywhere. No one is singing an old song when I walk into his house, no one will be videotaping as everyone opens their Christmas gifts this year, and no one is making cheesy jokes that still make everyone laugh until their bellies ache. An integral part of the family is gone, but we want to keep his memory alive.

Sometimes after someone passes away, others become hesitant to talk about them. They don’t mention their name because they don’t want to think about what has happened or don’t want to remind others of their hurt. My family, however, has spoken freely about Poppy and our memories with him. Whenever we think of a story with him, or something he used to do, we talk about it. We talk about how we feel without him and how we miss him. I think doing this is so helpful to the healing process. We don’t have to shove our feelings down, we can express them freely and remember him.

Seeing my poppy at least once a week is something I’ve done since I was a kid, and being so close with him is what made me feel his loss so completely. However this closeness with my family has provided so much necessary support and love in dealing with our grief for him. I’m glad I was close with him and got to hear so many of his stories and do so many things with him before he passed away so unexpectedly.

Almost everyone has had an experience with the death of a family member, and its impact has seemed to lessen as it happens to more and more people. But this loss was a huge blow to me and my family, who are very close-knit. The patriarch of our family is now gone. No one fills his seat at the head of the table, and no one can fill his place in our hearts. While being all together with my family is not the same without dear old Poppy, the love we have for each other will always be present.