At yesterday's service different people in my family talked briefly about my great grandma, highlighting specific memories and basically saying how awesome she was. It wasn't until one of my great aunts was talking about the several Christmas cookies that she made and had cooling everywhere in her kitchen that I realized I'll never spend Christmas eve with Grandma Norma again.
Ever since I moved to this town nearly twelve years ago, we always had Christmas eve at my grandma's house. For half the years this side of recency, we would go to a Christmas eve service at church before our own festivities because it was then that we really started going to church regularly (though, we've never been a "Easter and Christmas only" attending family). We would usually have Mexican or Chinese or appetizers--something a bit unusual for Christmas--for dinner and we would often play games and just spend time together (as if we didn't spend enough time with each other outside of Christmas). Sometimes we would be allowed to open one present that night, which was often one that my grandma or great grandma had gifted us. We would return to our own house for the night, open presents there in the morning, then return to my grandma's for the rest of the gifts and often lunch of the leftovers from the previous night.
It wasn't something we had practiced all my life or had down to an exact science, as some aspects would often change, but it was one of the strongest traditions we did have. I can't imagine how different it will be next time. Grandma won't be baking in the kitchen anymore. Or, at least, she won't be dictating directions to us as she hovers at our elbow with her walker anymore, since she stopped cooking and baking as much in the last few years. My mom won't be calling to her asking what she wants on her plate before she brings it to her in her sitting room and goes to join her herself. The kids wont be told to be quiet and stop goofing around so loudly because grandma's trying to sleep. We won't sit at her feet on Christmas morning opening presents and either pretending to like them more than we do or being stunned by her generosity with larger gifts.
No matter who sits in her chair, it will never be properly filled by the person who occupied it the most. We'll never hear her singing hymns in the mornings as she clanks pots around doing the dishes. The creaking of her front door won't be followed by, "Hey, grandma!" or "Bye, grandma!" as she looks at us in surprise at our arrival or sadness at our departure. We won't hear her pray for us or yell for my uncle to wake up because he'll be late for work or see her eyes widen at how much we've grown or feel the softness of her gown as she hugs us.
Everything is going to change, but the thing I feel the most is this overwhelming absence. People say it's like there's a hole in your heart that can't be filled. It is like that, but there are all the other holes too: the hole in the living room where she used to sit, the hole in the kitchen where she used to stand, the hole in the garden where she used to work, the hole where she used to crookedly smile at you from, the hole where "I love you" used to be said, the hole of no more baby blankets, the hole of her never meeting my children, the hole of all the knowledge and secrets that we never asked about that she took with her, the hole you want to yell in to tell her to stay for just one more moment because you have to say you're sorry and you love her and you want her to know she meant so much to you. There are holes everywhere that no one can fill, that no one can cover.