The Purpose of 2021


At the end of a year such as this, I find myself at a loss for what to say. Parts of 2020 were wonderful, such as seeing my cousins again after so long. Other aspects were nightmarish–imagining all of the people in the world falling sick, picturing empty chairs at Thanksgiving and Christmas tables, the sense of utter helplessness.

I imagine that 2020 changed everyone in some way. As it is now, I have developed a thirst for God again–yes, a thirst for Truth. You can see it in my religious blog. You might notice it if you see the pile of Papal Encyclicals on my desk, waiting to be read. I am single, but I’m in love with Jesus and His Church.

Can there be a love stronger than what I feel for the Church right now? She is a beacon of hope and a chest of treasures. The best memories of my childhood were in religious education class. There is no sweeter aroma to me than the inside of my parish, which I can smell even through the odious face-mask. I think of the days I was preparing for Confirmation–and such a nostalgia grips me that I want to weep.

I can’t–I can’t imagine I would have found this love again, if COVID fear had not sent me back “home.” Hold on to your faith and don’t let go. Bathe your quaking heart in the gentle truth of God’s love; wrap yourself in the safety of Mary’s mantle.

Some of you, like me, might feel inclined to weep as we near the end of this horrific year. Do it–let your tears water your faith. It will grow into a deeply-rooted tree, shade in the heat of trouble, shelter from the storm.

As for me, one day I will teach religious education. One day, I will give other kids the beautiful memories that my religion teachers gave me. When, God, will I be able to do this in person? A blog is all I can manage for now. I pray that this should be in my future–yes, I study and I pray.

My beautiful Idaho in the winter

Many of you might have lost someone this year. I wish I could tell you that time will heal your grief, but if my previous post here tells you anything, it’s that time does not patch up the wound of a lost loved one.

At the Christmas Eve Mass last week, we asked for my beloved grandmother’s name to be mentioned in the prayers for the deceased. When I heard her name mentioned as deceased, my heart hurt–as if she had left us again. It felt like that morning, two years ago, when my dad woke us up on Christmas Eve to say, “Grandma died.”

After prayers were said, the choir played The First Noel, my favorite Christmas song–but I could not sing it. I was crying–so hard that I could not hold a note, or remember the lyrics. I could only kneel and rifle through the beautiful memories of Grandma and her house, the clothes she wore, her scent and her laughter, the deck overlooking her yard. My heart, though grateful that she was with Jesus, felt terrible pain.

It felt as if she had been wrenched from me again.

On the kneeler, I felt relief–and then emptiness–and I sobbed instead to The First Noel, praying in thanksgiving for my grandma’s life. That was all I could do–thank the Lord for her life.

If you need to cry, let your tears water your faith. Don’t hold them in, though; turn to the crucified Savior and cry.

There’s a time for flower beds and there’s a time for ice / The armor of the tree and bush which, frozen, slowly dies…

2021 does not promise to be easier. I’m not afraid of 2021. I wear the shield of faith, and instead of letting it wrench me of hope, I pray that God will use me and my writing to give hope to others.

I’m not afraid of 2021. I am afraid of not seeing a future, of not anticipating being anyone, of being the same person I was before COVID. Let me never be lukewarm again. I am more than a writer; I am a child of God, His ambassador on earth. All Christians have much work to do in His name.

There will have been positive changes in you this year, as well. Perhaps you can’t see them yet; dig deep and you will feel them. Have a good cry and they will surface on your heart. You have a purpose–yes, you, though there are moments you might feel you don’t make a dent in history. You have a purpose; that’s why you were born!

My grandma had a beautiful purpose; now she has gone to Jesus. She left a family aching with rich love for her. Live the sort of life that will form your legacy of love. There is nothing else we should strive to be remembered for, because God is Love.

Enter 2021 ready to find your purpose. I am.

Dear Grandma:


Dear Grandma:

It’s been two years, and I guess I need to talk to you. Merry Christmas is hard to pronounce, because you left on Christmas Eve.

I remember what your house looked like every Christmastime. I remember you had Mrs. Claus sitting on a child-sized rocking chair and you always had tons of ornaments on your tree. You made a lot of them decades past; I really wish we had gotten better photos of the masterpiece that was your Christmas tree.

It’s been two years since you went to Heaven and I’ve learned that time does not, in fact, heal. It gives you opportunities to find distractions; you pick up new hobbies and responsibilities. You seek the same sort of comfort in other people, but no one hugs like you did, and no one smells like you did.

One summer we were in your basement. You asked me, “Would you ever consider visiting my church?” Because you are Mormon and I have been Catholic since I was eleven. I didn’t know what to say at the time; I didn’t want to get into a religious discussion with my grandma. “I’ll consider it,” I promised you, and though you might have wanted some more enthusiasm, you didn’t press the subject.

When you died, I decided I wanted to keep that promise. I didn’t expect I’d be keeping that promise I made to you while you were in your casket, but I’m sure you were in the same room. I told a story my cousins must have been familiar with. I spoke of how you loved the autumn leaves as they changed with the seasons. I reminded my cousins of how you would point them out every time you drove us somewhere in October.

I spoke to distant family and friends from your church who probably didn’t know this side of you, about how you were an artist. You would pull up in your white Dodge Durango, all dressed up to visit the craft store. One time you accidentally pulled up to get us when I had arranged to go somewhere else with a friend, so you and I agreed to go out again some other time. I regret that decision; I will always regret it.

I spoke a eulogy as a granddaughter, and though I had never done any form of public speaking previously, people said that it was moving. Many asked me to send them the transcript. It was the last thing I could do for you on earth: remind people of how you loved.

Two years later, Christmas isn’t the same. You left us on the morning of Christmas Eve, forever making yourself a part of the Christmas spirit, but we are human and our hearts are still broken. Last year we did not put up a Christmas tree; this year we have a small one, but your house has been taken by another family, and we are utterly alone in this city.

My brother snapped a candid shot of a time you spontaneously decided to teach me to make chocolate chip cookies. You were wearing a cheetah-print blouse and I was paying attention. I didn’t know at the time how desperately I would want that moment back, and I am grateful to Christian for preserving that moment.

One time you were speaking of someone you knew who had gotten engaged, and seeing that I looked melancholy, gave me advice about relationships. “You’ll have one one day,” you said, referring to a wedding announcement. “Men aren’t as aggressive with their feelings.” Whether that’s true or not, your care for how I felt on the subject still serves as a balm.

One time I asked you if Grandpa would be proud of us. It had been over ten years since his death, and you knew him better than anyone else, while I only have flashes of important moments spent with him. “Oh,” you said, nearly breaking down, “he would be so proud of you.” You then walked away, as if to cry somewhere.

I remember being a young child, cuddled up against you while you read out loud from Peter Rabbit. I remember the feel of the couch beneath us, the smell of your laundry detergent, and the illustrations from the book. Then I would want you to read me another book, and you’d wait patiently as I chose a children’s book from your cupboard. It smelled like the library I would one day have. When you died, I kept that copy of Peter Rabbit for myself.

A snippet of a conversation between you and Grandpa lingers in my mind regarding the grandfather clock we inherited from you. He was staring at the pendulum as it went back and forth, admiring how the entire living room could be seen on its face. “Colleen,” he told you, “take a photo of that.” “The flash would ruin it,” you replied. “Paint it,” he said.

There are moments that the four of us feel lost in the world without you. We haven’t gone to your favorite restaurant, Casa Mexico, since then; I don’t think we ever will. We can’t drive by your house.

I always dream of your house, you know. I dream of going inside and everything being where it should be, including the grandfather clock now ticking away in my living room. In my mind, that will always be our family’s house.

“You’re still grieving?” some might ask. “That was a long time ago.” Or, “She’s in Heaven!” Or, “Find a hobby.”

Certain friends could not understand that grief causes change in behavior, priorities, and mindset. I don’t miss them. If they couldn’t stand by me while I grieved, they weren’t really friends.

Grandma Colleen, the thing I remember most about you is how the only thing you remembered to say in your final months was “I love you.” You took that love with you, and I can picture you looking back at us at the gates to Heaven in order to say “I love you” one last time.

I don’t know the point of this post. I’m not sure you can read it. I suppose I want everyone to know for Christmas what a great grandmother you are.

You left a void in all of us. I’m sorry we can’t fill it; I don’t mean to guilt you. We miss you and we always will.

Christmas is about Jesus…but it’s also about you. It always will be.

I love you.

-Mariella