Mark Twain

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

This Christmas

My Christmas decorations are up, 
much reduced over previous years - part of my less is more style of living.  
The gifts are all purchased and wrapped - and sit prettily under my tree.
Holiday cooking began in earnest two days ago - as well as a house clean up.

  I feel on schedule, 
in control, 


My Christmas tree with gifts this year.
Just like every other Christmas for at least a decade
it feels like I am going through the motions.
Checking off my to-do list.
Preparing to make the holiday grand for the folks I love.
But it has been many years since the holidays
have been grand in my own heart.

Christmas is a hard holiday for some folks,
and I count myself among them.  
The Christmas season is filled with too many sad remembrances for me.  
I have spent years of Christmases just trying to get to the month of January!

This is the oldest ornament on my tree.
It was a decoration one of my Christmas gifts from my future mother-in-law in 1967.
My dad died on this day, December 23, in 1970.  He always comes to mind during this season. I have long since moved on from that loss, but it still left small sad memories for me.  

This metal flag bow was put on the tree the year my son went into the military in the mid 1990s.
It was the first Christmas my son was not home with us.

In more recent years, the Christmas season has been especially difficult.
In early December 2010, mom was hospitalized with a terrible stomach flu that landed her
in rehab on discharge.  The year was a race to get her home in time for Christmas.
And all the traditional stuff (tree, gifts, cooking, decorations) were held off till December 23.
But it was one of the most joyful Christmases - because she made it home.

  Mom moved from my home into Assisted Living in early December 2011.  A fall in October and extended rehab November did not help her. 
That was the first Christmas when she was not with family.  

Mom made this lighted ceramic Christmas tree.
I am sure most everyone has one of these!
But I am just as sure that this one is the loveliest one of all.
The elder care community she resided in was exceptional.   Always beautifully decorated for every season.  A festive holiday reception was held for residents and family with delicious food and wonderful entertainment.  The staff was gay and engaged with the residents.  But it never fully compensated for the fact she was not home.  She always asked to go home, especially during the Christmas season.  It was a conversation that always left me sad.

A Christmas angel made by my mom during a more  joyful time.
Not sure how I feel about the concept of 'heaven', but if there is one
she most certainly is there - wings and all!
Last year mom died on December 28.  Another difficult Christmas.  She had been markedly failing the previous months - and last Christmas was just one long sad goodbye as I sat by her bedside day after day watching her slip away from this world.  The cheer and decorations of the season seemed to be a cruel artificial shell that surrounded my intense sadness.

This Christmas is the first anniversary of her death.  I have completed a year of "firsts without mom." Now I feel that circle is finally closed.  She officially slips into my past, but not out of my heart.

I miss her - especially this Christmas.  I have been caught totally by surprise this week when I find tears are falling.  Sad images of our last Christmas together are common this week.  Loss is a lonely a feeling when it seems like the world has moved on and memories persist.   Although this memory will never be totally gone, the intensity will fade with time.

So this will be a pensive Christmas for me.  Christmas Eve will be filled with our small immediate family - our traditional dinner, gift exchange and a sleep over at our house.  Christmas morning will be our family breakfast.  I will go to Mass and then visit the cemetery, while my son visits with his in-laws - who also are mourning the death of a loved one this past fall.  The rest of my time will be quiet ... maybe a long walk ... maybe time spent with one of my many hobbies ... maybe a distracting activity like planning out my January 2016 calendar.  Once again, I look forward to January.  I just need to get to January.

I think 2016 will be a positive new beginning for me.  
In fact, I know it will be so!  
Christmas 2016 will be better ... 
because it won't be
  this Christmas ... 
the first one without mom.

I wish you all a peaceful and happy Christmas.

"Somethings in life cannot be fixed.
They can only be carried."
Megan Devine


  1. A very honest post. I think there are more people than we realise who find this time of year a challenge. I completely understand the feeling of wanting to get to January. I saw a good slogan yesterday..."When it's dark, look for the stars". I don't want or have the type of Christmas that is loud and busy. But I look forward to the little things like people being a bit nicer to each other and time to relax. Enjoy doing what makes you happy. Best wishes, Una.

  2. That first Christmas IS the hardest. It will get better gradually but you never forget. May you find peace this Christmas.

  3. It's been a few years since I had to accept my firsts after a loss but I still remember the disconnect I felt because of those losses. I hope you find some peace and enjoyment this Christmas in spite of your loss.

    P.S. my grandmother made me that exact same tree. I thought mine was the most beautiful too. :-)

  4. Sorry to hear that Christmas is not a happy time for you. I think there are quite a few who feel they way you do.
    We have a very simple Christmas with just me and Ken and it is really nice.
    I find thinking of what Christmas is really about makes me happy. : )
    BTW - my daughter still won't speak to us!
    Merry Christmas to you and your family and may you find peace and joy.

  5. I have fond memories of childhood Christmases; adult Christmases have never been the same. Rick and I come from very different traditions and we have never managed to mesh them well or come up with our own, so in a lot of ways I feel like I have disconnected emotionally from this season. It doesn't help that our Christmas tree has crashed twice now, shattering most of the ornaments that I associated with my childhood. Maybe it is better not to have "great expectations" – less disappointment that way. I loved the mini-tour of ornaments, and pray you will find some joy among the sad memories.

  6. You have had some sad things happen during this time and hope you find peace as time passes.

    What kept me going was a big group of friends who all travelled together during the holidays. We built new memories. I hear you about wanting it simple, and think you've found the right approach.

    I made and sold at least a dozen of those trees of all sizes when I was doing shows. I still like to see them, too.

  7. Thank you for sharing, Elaine. Christmas is a challenging time for so many of us, I think, and as much as I love the tree and the music and food and all the expressions of goodwill, I will be glad to move on to January and new beginnings. I hope this Christmas brings you peace and some joyful memories.


  8. Someone said this Christmas will be the hardest....this is my second without Richard and it is just as hard! I am sending you a huge hug ((hug)). I don't like Christmas time either. It, to me, is the saddest time of the year!!


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