When I was maybe 5 or 6, my great grandpa died. He's the first relative I remember dying, and I wasn't all that sad. I'm ashamed to admit that I was afraid of him; my understanding is that he had Alzheimer's and spoke almost entirely in German, so I didn't understand a word he said, and he was in a wheelchair (which was completely new to me at the time). I didn't go to the funeral.
Maybe a year later (I don't know the timeline, since I was so young) my great grandma died (also my mom's family, but different side of that family). For her, I cried. My mom was so upset that she actually scolded me for crying because I hadn't cried when Great Grandpa had died. She doesn't even remember saying it, but I did stop crying. That was the first funeral I remember. We had to travel for it, and I don't remember much. It was an open casket, and I saw my great grandma one last time. Otherwise, me and my cousins were in the Curious George room at the funeral parlor, reading books and playing games.
When my great granddaddy died (my dad's grandpa), I was a few years older. Middle school or even high school, I think. I was sad, but I hadn't known him very well since he lived in Mississippi. He was nice enough to me, though. He didn't talk much, but he let me play with a Mr. Potato Head when I visited, which I just thought was the coolest thing ever. When his wife eventually died, my parents forgot to tell me for months. They had found out while I had a sleepover, and they didn't want to upset me. I found out at dinner one night when they were talking about it in passing. She was a seriously sweet lady and I was really sad for my Grandpa since his mom and dad were both gone.
I'd been seriously lucky since then. My family was all relatively healthy and most were in the same state as me.
Fast forward. When I was 21, I was woken up one Saturday morning by my mom telling me that my Gramma (her mom) had died. I'd just visited her a week or so before, and even though she was on hospice, I was shocked. I called my best friend/pseudo-sister K and she came to pick me up and spent the day with me. I took two or three nights off of work so I could help in any way possible. I helped with the picture boards and kept my mom company. At the funeral, I bawled. The hardest part for me was when my cousin N lost it, but the most vivid memory I have is my cousin P's son asking where Great Gramma was and she told him to remember that we could only see her in pictures now.
6 years ago tomorrow, my cat died. He'd been my 13th birthday present, and though I've always been a dog person, I loved that damn cat more than anything. He was a bitch (blocked a few of my friends in the bathroom, hissed at people, bit some of them...), but he loved me. He was also a tubby tabby (22 pounds!), and probably died as a result (heart failure, maybe). Once again, I was woken up by my mom, this time to be told Zeus had died and to ask if I wanted them to do something with him or to cremate him and bring him home. I wanted him to come home. I tried to work that day, but I only made it a few hours in before I broke down and asked to go home. I had been dating Hubby for a few months at the time, and after work he drove all the way from Milwaukee to Madison to be there for me. He brought me potted flowers and if I hadn't already known he was a keeper, that sealed the deal.
Since then, I've been lucky enough to not lose any family. Friends? Yes. It's been a rough year or two for that, actually. But family was safe and sound.
Until yesterday, when my mom called to tell me that my uncle had died in a car accident. He's my uncle through marriage, but my uncle nonetheless, and I can't possibly imagine what my aunt is going through. We don't know details, nor when services will be or anything like that. Right now, it seems cold to even think about it. All I know is that our family lost someone that we hold dear, and just before Christmas at that. I know there's no good time to lose someone, but this is just shitty.
I've experienced a decent amount of loss this year, and many others have suffered far more loss than I can possibly imagine. I can only hope that 2013 is a little kinder to those in my life. I hope it's kinder to us all.
Be thankful for your loved ones, and hold them close this time of year. Be grateful for the time you have with them and how they've touched your lives. It can be over far too quickly.