Starting the New Year With a Death in the Family

Starting the New Year With a Death in the Family

My grandfather died yesterday, on New Year's Day, 2013.

It was sudden, but not completely unexpected. He was ninety-two, and he had lived a long, happy life. He was ready to be with my grandmother, and he went to her. This is one of those situations where it seems more appropriate to celebrate a person's life than to mourn his passing. I will miss him, everyone will miss him, but we all know he's at peace.

This post isn't about my specific situation, though. If my grandfather had died in the middle of July, I probably wouldn't even be writing this. This post is about the new year and new beginnings and placing undue emphasis on the events of a certain date. All day long on New Year's Eve, I saw people tweeting about how shitty a year 2012 was for them and for a lot of people. I felt bad for them and for the others, and I felt somewhat guilty for having had a pretty happy and successful year.

And then 2013 happened.

OK, I know that January 1 is a made-up day on a made-up calendar. Back in Roman times, in fact, the new year really started in March, so suck on that, January. What happens on January 1 should in no way set the tone for the rest of the year, because the year itself is a made-up cycle as well. But because something bad happens on January 1, it feels like the hammer of doom has come down on the rest of the year. Whether it's a football team's loss or car trouble or a breakup or a trip to the emergency room, we create false significance around the event. If Grandpa had died twelve hours earlier on December 31, I would've been like, "Well, that was still 2012." In fact, my dog actually threw up on New Year's Eve, about two hours before midnight. He has some kind of post-traumatic stress that accompanies his vomiting, so as I prepared myself for him to have a seizure, I definitely thought, "Good thing this is happening tonight when it's still last year." I know it's stupid.

I could let this set a negative tone for the rest of the year. I could decide that, well, this is how the year is going to go and every shitty thing that happens from now until December 31 is a direct result of 2013's vendetta against me.

Or I could embrace the positive. This is as good a time as any to take stock of the things I do have, to show gratitude for the people and blessings in my life, to spend the next 364 days (and beyond) not taking for granted that I'll have them forever.

I choose to do the latter.



Leave a comment