One Small Part

I’m sitting surrounded by people but someone is missing.  I can pretend he is in another room.  Maybe he’s in the basement.  Or he’s just not home right now.  But where else would he be?  Uncle Gordon wouldn’t miss this time with his family.  But he is.  And we miss him.

All weekend I have been listening to tributes and memories of Uncle Gordon, or Uncle for short.  And I have realized a few things.  First of all, my knowledge of him was a small part of who he was.  I was in a bubble, a happy bubble.  But this seems to be part of who he was.  Uncle was a man of few words and I knew everything that I needed to know.  As I listen to the stories I don’t feel like I missed out by not knowing them, rather I’m intrigued.  I have always been in awe of him and liked to believe that he could do no wrong.  That hasn’t changed; I like him on his pedestal.  Uncle was quiet and didn’t announce his accomplishments, or much of anything else.  I only found out his age and birth date as well as Auntie Doris’s last year.  This summer he finally started to tell me stories about himself.  I never felt that he was keeping anything from me; it just wasn’t part of the conversation.  I would have loved to write more blogs about him before he passed but I felt like it would embarrass him and he would have thought it was unnecessary.  He didn’t think he had done anything special he just did what he felt was right.

Something else that I realized is how incredibly fortunate I am to have not only one Dad, but 2 Dad’s with an incredible legacy of God, generosity, integrity and work ethic.  What were the chances?  This is evidence of God’s incredible timing and planning.  When my Father was taken from us it could have been the end of that path for me.  But God knew that I was still going to need a Dad and the perfect one was just down the road so He put him in place for me.  Uncle Gordon wasn’t necessarily there to fill the need of discipline or deep conversations; he was there for me to fill the role as a daddy’s girl.  I have absolutely no doubt that had my Father lived I would have been a “daddy’s girl”.  And that is the role that Uncle Gordon filled for me.  And maybe God knew that Uncle needed a little girl hanging around for some other reason that none of us will ever know.  We all have different needs and paths.  Apparently one of my needs as a kid was to have many stand-in parents.  Sometimes I’m not so sure of how to take that.  But God knew that was what I would need to make it through.  And I am so thankful that He had a plan because the rest of us were just getting by.

One realization that I didn’t have was I thought that when I got to Moosomin I would have the sudden realization of Uncle Gordon being gone.  But I didn’t.  I went to the viewing and looked into his face but I didn’t see him; I just saw the shell.  I knew more than I have ever known at all the funerals I have been to that he was no longer there but it was more comfort that I felt than sadness, I was happy for him.  I thought for sure when we went to the house I would feel a massive void.  But I didn’t.  I did notice that he was missing but it was not the overwhelming feeling of sadness that I had expected.  It may have been that there were enough people around to not feel his absence the way I had expected.  All through the weekend it was just as if he was in the other room.  A few times I thought I saw him out of the corner of my eye but then I would quickly realize that it was his son.  I never realized how much they look alike.  I wonder if the next visit will be different.

Moosomin will always be home to me.  My parents and extended family built the foundation but Uncle Gordon and Auntie Doris made it a home.

Stories of Uncle Gordon

We are heading to Moosomin, Saskatchewan for a funeral on Friday for Gordon Whelpton.  Uncle Gordon passed away suddenly on December 22nd, 2011.  And I’m still in a bit of denial.  The morning after I found out I woke up hoping that I had misunderstood; hoping that I would feel ridiculous when I was told that he hadn’t really died.  He’d had a heart attack or a lung infection or some other serious but manageable malady.  The truth, however, has been confirmed over and over.  But until I drive up to the house, knock on the door and he isn’t there to give me a hug and welcome me in I don’t think I can believe it.  He has always been there.

Uncle Gordon was a farm neighbor of my parent’s.  He was at our house talking to my Dad the day before my Dad was murdered in 1976.  Uncle Gordon was there when I learned to speak and I called him Dad.  Uncle was there to show me where the chickens liked to hide their eggs around the barn; lifting me up to get them out of the 90 year old crevices in the stone walls.  He was there to fight with over who would get the blue cup at dinnertime.

Nearly every time I saw him we would exchange our stories and memories.  They were usually the same but they never got old to us.  He would tell me about how he would “feed me, spank me and put me to bed”.  We both knew that Auntie Doris did a lot of the work in taking care of my sister and I, mostly me being the infant, but I loved to let him think it was all him.  Another story was when I went out to the barn barefoot, which was a lot, and one particular time when I was 3 or 4 I had stepped in some nasty stuff and he found me just in time before heading to the house for lunch.  He knew my Mom would be upset to see what I had gotten into and that Auntie Doris wouldn’t let me in the house so he lifted me up and washed my feet in the rain barrel.  And it was our little secret.  The third story is when I was just learning to speak and my Mom was bragging and asked me, “Who’s your Honey?”  Thinking that I was going to point to her, but instead I pointed to Uncle.  He was very proud but she apparently hadn’t been very impressed at the mutiny.

In the winter Uncle would hitch the horses to the hay rack filled with straw and take it out to the pasture to feed the cattle.  If we could get up and dressed quick enough and it wasn’t too cold my sister and I would hop onto the hay rack and “help” feed the cows.  We usually couldn’t feel much by the end but it was worth it just to be out with Uncle.

Apparently my sister and I would race each other to sit in his lap on the black recliner while he watched TV in the evenings.  And if whoever won left even for a moment the other was right there to take their place.  I do remember a few rare times when we both sat on his lap at the same time.  I don’t remember those times ending as well.  I don’t remember being disciplined but I’m pretty sure I’m blocking something.

What I do remember is the safe and secure feeling of the farm.  Nothing bad could happen there.  Then the barn burned down when I was a teenager.   The news hit me like a stone.  It felt like a friend had died.  That barn was my sanctuary.  I had spent so much time out there and I couldn’t imagine the farm without it.  Uncle, Auntie and I talked about the barn burning for the first time this past summer and I was amazed to see the look of pain on both of their faces after all this time.  There was an impromptu moment of silence like in remembrance of an old friend.

These are only a very few of my many stories of Uncle Gordon.  He was a quiet, unassuming, generous, hardworking man of God who will never really leave the farm, or our hearts.

I See the Light…

I was dreading Christmas this year and the all too familiar anniversary grief.  I really didn’t want it to ruin Christmas for my husband and kids.  I didn’t want to be the “downer” at every event and yet I know that I need to give myself the freedom to grieve.  It’s a fine balance.

So, having a family get-together yesterday on the anniversary of my Mom’s passing and in Steinbach no less was very daunting.   Could I deal with it?  Would I make a blubbering fool of myself?  Should I even go?  But I was determined to be there for my husband and kids.  So I arranged to have time for myself for several hours during the day and decided to go.  Driving into town was difficult.  I felt like I went back in time.  It was last year all over again, just without the snow.  Drove past the funeral home and then her last apartment and I could feel the anxiety rising.  I had told my husband that if I needed to I might just leave for a bit to have some time alone but I made it through with just a few quiet times downstairs.  My husband’s oldest brother came down and told me that my Mom was on his mind for the last few days and we shared a few tears and a few stories when I confirmed that it was the anniversary.  He had gone to visit my Mom several times in her last few months and my Mom loved it.  He brightened her day, and wore yellow; her favorite color.  My Mother-in-law and I also shared a hug and a few tears.

When we left and drove back through town was when I started to see it.  I was saying to my husband that I was just so happy to be going home with him opposed to last year when I had stayed at my Mom’s apartment with my Aunt.  And I started to think of the days to come this week compared to last year.  I’m not making phone calls and planning for pall bearers, I won’t be at a funeral tomorrow etc.  And I realized that it is all better from here.  Every day this year will be better than last year.  The pain and grief will be less every day.  I have faced the worst of it and survived.  I know that I will still miss her and there will be tough days.  But I also know that I am moving forward.

I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Eulogy Part 1

This is the eulogy that I wrote in the middle of the night and read at my Mom’s funeral on December 20th, 2010.  I have split it into 2 parts:

How does one describe Carole Pearce?  I think everyone here could come up with some pretty good stories.  But, I think in the end we would all agree on some basic truths about Mom.  Faith, Family and Humor.

Mom’s faith led her down many paths, some led to joy and some led to incredible pain.  She trusted that God had a plan, even if he wasn’t willing to share the plan with her.  Mom had a faith-filled upbringing that I believe gave her strength when she needed it.  She didn’t just take the strength, she lived her life in a way that showed where her strength came from.  She never pretended to live without God’s help and intervention.  She even went against her life-long creed, “I will never marry a farmer.”  She trusted that it was the right thing to do.  And the decision to marry my Dad led to new and exciting experiences, like driving a grain truck down a steep hill towards a slough; with my Dad guiding her, and possibly having a few chuckles.  She had an incredible life ahead of her with everything she could have ever hoped for.  She had been faithful and it had come back to her.

Then after just 3 years it all exploded and her life was never to be the same.  I’m sure she questioned why many, many times.  But, she still trusted God to bring her through.  She had insurmountable challenges in the first 6 months with trials, lawyers, farming, an auction sale, a toddler and an infant.  She had unified support from family and the community that she knew was sent by God to help her through.   She also used her experience to help others.  She wrote letters of forgiveness and had open communication with men who were her potential enemies.  Partly due to Mom’s generosity of spirit, both of these men are now Christians.  One is a full time councilor in a halfway house; the other is still working out the kinks but is trying.  Mom went where she felt she was needed to speak and inspire people to face their fears and their enemies.

Since Mom became sick in June of 2009 she began to pray like never before.  She would wake in the night in the hospital and whoever popped into her mind she would pray for them.  She felt she still had purpose as long as she could pray and tell people what God had done for her.  In her last few weeks she was unable to get out of bed or control much of her body.  But she could pray.  We would hear her praying all times of the day and night.  Sometimes it sounded like a conversation and she would tell me, “I’ve been talking to God today.”  And I would say,”And what did He have to say.”  Her answer would vary but it always came down to, “He knows everything so I don’t have to.”  Her last audible word was “Amen” in the middle of last Wednesday night.

Music became her refuge in the hospital and at home this past year.  She loved music.  She grew up surrounded by music and married into a musical family.  One of her favorite memories of my Dad was when he would go to the nursing home with his guitar on a quiet afternoon and he would sing for the residents.  So, we made sure she had music 24 hours a day, if necessary.  It helped give her peace.  And some of her favorites were played during the viewing tonight.

Mom used her gift of sewing to bring clothing and smiles to the needy.  Last year she sent children’s t-shirts to a Northern reserve as well as to Mexico.  She finished the last one right before her first visit to the hospital.  This year she really got into making the little animals that we have on display.  She would give them to babies at church and anyone that she knew that needed a cuddle, even a few adults.  The last batch she made went in the Christmas shoe boxes to Haiti in November.

Eulogy Part 2


Mom has left an indelible legacy of faith and prayer that will not be forgotten.  She also has left us the importance of family and friends.  She knew what it was to need help and to give help.  And she would tell friends that needed help to not forget what others had done for them because one day they would have a chance to do the same for someone else; and to take that chance.  Mom was completely devoted to her parents, her siblings, extended family and my Dad.  She was happiest with her family.  I have incredible memories of time with family and friends in Warroad, Arborg, Dryden and Moosomin.  We were rarely home on any holiday or school vacation.  This past summer we were able to make a large request come true.  We were able to get a reunion together with family coming from Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota and Oregon.  She was thrilled and it was one of her best days after 4 1/2 months of being in and out of the hospital.  We were all so happy to give her that time.

She loved her grandchildren.  I remember how she beamed when my daughter, Sidney was born.  I hadn’t seen her that happy in years.  And that happiness did not diminish with the birth of Melissa and Natasha.   They all had Christmas dresses, pajamas and anything else that she could give them.  Then came the news of a grandson.  She wasn’t so sure what she would do with a boy.  She still had lots of pink and purple fabric to be used.  How could this be?  She decided she would just have to get more creative for the boy.  Alex got pajamas, t-shirts, the stuffed taxi in the other room and something to hang on his wall.  Mom adored him.  She had a special place for him.  Her face would light up when he came in no matter how sick or tired she was.  She loved his energy.  Mom’s main concern before she passed was her grandchildren and if they would be okay.  She didn’t want to leave them behind.  She even expressed that concern in one of her conversations with God.

This past year we made sure to give the kids lasting memories of Grandma.  The girls learned to cross-stitch and sew.  Alex had lots of hugs, laughs and tickles.  And speaking of laughs I think we can all agree that my Mom had an amazing sense of humor.  Her Mother was big on laughter and had lived on the philosophy of a belly laugh a day was essential to survival.  So, we all learned to laugh.  Mom was always quick with a joke or a funny comment.  Light sarcasm came easily.  She lifted other’s spirits as well as her own.  She found friends easily almost everywhere she went.  Mom made longstanding relationships with people that sat at the neighboring table in the restaurant, and with people in the neighboring hospital bed.  Humor got her through a lot of dark days past and present.  She went to meet friends at MJ’s last fall after she’d lost most of her hair to chemo and suddenly put her hands on her head and exclaimed, “Oh, I forgot to comb my hair!”  No one at the table was sure how to handle the situation.  It took a few seconds before Mom said, “Oh wait, I have don’t have any hair.”  Everyone at the table was relieved and had a good laugh.

The nurses at St Boniface said that they loved coming in her room because it was so positive and uplifting.  The home care ladies that cared for her over the last year said the same thing, especially over the last few weeks.  No one could believe that even when her body was failing her smile kept working.  She had been concerned that morphine would turn her into someone that she didn’t want to be.  But, it didn’t.  She was still herself.  A few weeks ago the nurse came in and said, “Hi Carole.”  And Mom lifted her arm and said, “Hi, I’m hiiiigh.”  Even when she wasn’t sure what we were all talking about if she heard us laugh she would laugh with us.  And if we whispered when we thought she was sleeping we would get reprimanded and told to speak up.  In the last year we have laughed about everything from hospital food and colostomy bags to death and funerals.  Other than her suffering I wouldn’t trade the last 16 months for anything.

I’d like to list a few of Mom’s final requests:

“I’d like my hair dyed red for the funeral.  Oh and a perm.”

“Don’t make me look like a saint.  I’m not perfect, you know.”

“It doesn’t matter what you dress me in, I won’t be there to see it.  Just pick something.”

As you can see we didn’t honor all of her requests.  But, we will do our best to continue her legacy of faith, family and humor.

At this time I would also like to say an enormous thank you to everyone that cared for Mom, whether at the hospital, at cancer care or at home.  Home care workers are unsung heroes.  In the words of my Mother, “Treat home care workers with respect and kindness.  You may need them one day.”

The Restaurant

I was in Steinbach for an appointment last week and it was a lot shorter than I had expected so I decided to surprise my sister at work before heading back to Winnipeg.  My sister is a cook at a popular, and very good, restaurant in town.  So I surprised her and ordered something to eat.  I sat down at a table and I realized that I hadn’t been to this restaurant since the day of my Mom’s funeral almost a year ago when we had an early family dinner.

As I sat there I remembered all the times I had been there with my Mom.  Going out for afternoon coffee – or any time of day – was one of her favorite things.  And I was always up for it as well.  She always knew someone, had a conversation, a laugh, or just a “hi” as she walked by.  I looked around at the people in the restaurant and wondered if there was anyone there that day that she would have known.  After Mom was sick and unable to go out we would pick up food for her.  Mom was friends with the owners and knew all the waitresses so they didn’t mind “bending” the menu for Mom when her tastes changed.  And there were days where Mom would get hungry for pie so we would call the restaurant to see what they had that day so Mom could decide and then go pick it up if it was the right kind for that days craving.  They were always so good to her.  This was also the restaurant where she had fainted and they had taken care of her until my sister got there.

The other day I sipped my coffee and I looked across at the empty chair and I could almost see her sitting in front of me.  Maybe she was in the washroom and would be right back.  Maybe she hadn’t gotten there yet and was on her way.  Every time I heard the door I expected to see her walk around the corner with a big smile on her face.  But she didn’t.  And she wasn’t.  My sister came and sat down.  We had a good chat and a few laughs.  But someone was missing.

Now that was a year after her passing and I was only there once.  My sister went back to work a few days after the funeral and faced that absence every day.  She spoke with Mom’s friends, answered their questions and listened to their memories.  I realize that I have been very sheltered here in Winnipeg without the painful daily memories and I’m not sure how my sister did it, especially in the beginning.  But as painful as these experiences are they are also cleansing and important.  Mom’s illness became so overwhelming it was and still is difficult to remember the times before she was sick.  It was refreshing to go somewhere that holds the “before” memories.

Christmas Memories

I have incredible childhood memories of Christmas.  My Mom had a difficult time with Christmas because it was my Dad’s favorite holiday so we traveled.  My sister and I thought it was great, we had no idea what all the traveling was all about until we were older.  My Mom couldn’t stay home with all the reminders so she would take us to family in Saskatchewan, Ontario or Minnesota.  It was a great distraction for her and we had a great time wherever we went.  We usually ended up in Minnesota for New Year’s with her family.

The evening that school ended for the holidays Mom would invite one or more of her friends over and we would have a big dinner.  The anticipation of where we were going and the fun we knew we would have was better than the gifts to come.  After dinner we would open gifts and get packed to go away.  The next morning we would leave for up to a week.  We would come home for a day or two and then be gone for New Years coming home in time to go back to school.  There were fewer gifts but we didn’t care.  Those trips are some of the best memories of my childhood.  The big gatherings, snowmobile rides, games, cousins, tucked safely away in a little house in the woods or quiet evenings on the farm eating caramel popcorn while in pajamas, going on the hay rack to feed the cows even if you couldn’t feel your fingers and toes, waking up to the smell of breakfast on the wood stove and being compelled to take your feet from under the warm blanket and touch the cold floor before reaching for thick socks.  Opening presents was somewhere down the list compared to all of that.  I miss it desperately.

And now I have memories with my husband and children, their first Christmas’s.  Waking up to my daughter trying to entice us out of bed with a huge smile jumping up and down, tobogganing, bundled up, hot chocolate, cousins, gatherings.  Not as dramatic as in my childhood but still cozy and happy.  We have also continued the tradition and belief that presents are secondary to the experience of Christmas and the birth of Jesus.  It’s about creating memories, not debt.

So when my Mom passed just before Christmas last year I was really upset because I didn’t want her death to tarnish these memories.  Because of my life long issues with June, when my Dad died I have been really concerned that the same thing would happen with Christmas.  I have been bracing myself, prepared for the worst.  I seem to be faring better than I thought that I would, especially for the first year.  One thing that helps is that I know that it would break my Mom’s heart to know that any of us had lost “Christmas” because of her death.  She understood the pain of loss and grief and that was her greatest worry in her last days.  She didn’t want us to experience what she had endured for so long.  And I want to honor that.  I also know that I have a choice.  I can choose to make new traditions while treasuring my memories.  It’s not easy but I know the possibility is there.  And I am not willing to give up Christmas.  Death has taken so much from me; I’m not giving this up as well.  Unlike June I have Christmas memories to hold on to.  I have a time of joy to return to.  I have hope for Christmas to return better than ever in our home.  And if I can do this with Christmas I just might claim June one of these days.

Waiting for Relief

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 I cooked Mom her last meal of sweet and sour meatballs, rice and sliced carrots.  That night I sat with her, listened and talked with her as she came into reality after 18 months of denial.  Friday, December 17th, 2010 Mom passed away at 6am.  The small steps towards death that we witnessed every day dragging us to a finish line that we craved and dreaded all at once are what I am now reliving.

The sadness in my Mom’s eyes as she realized that she would not watch her grandchildren grow up.  Her realizing that her death would cause her grandchildren pain and grief.  Small joy at who was waiting for her on the other side.

Taking our last wheelchair walk.  Walking down the hall to the mail for the last time.  Walking across

her apartment for the last time with her walker.  Discussing funeral arrangements as if planning a family gathering.  Moving her hospital bed into the living room and setting up what would be her final living space.  Her taking the one step and turning to sit in her recliner for the last time. She would never eat a meal at the dining table again.

Only being able to wear hospital gowns.  Never getting out of bed again because it took 3 people to help her to stand.  Seeing the effects of starvation start to take effect.  No longer being able to sit up. Having random conversations about pall bearers over and over.  Stealing moments to go in the back bedroom to take deep breaths.

Not able to turn herself over in her bed.  2 people needed to turn her.  3 people needed to turn her.  Feeling through the gown how much smaller she had become.  Convincing her to take pain medication.  Learning to give morphine.  Needing morphine before she could be turned.  Never knowing when the pain would take over and she would have to be sedated. Her ever constant sense of humor.  No longer able to lift her head.  No longer able to hold a cup to drink.  Giving her sips of juice with a straw.

Thankful that she no longer feels hunger and has stopped asking for food.

The rest of us playing games late into the night to keep her company.  Starting coffee at midnight.  Time no longer exists in apartment 101. The blinds are always closed.  The low level of light is the same no matter what time of day or night it is.  Music playing 24 hours a day.  Having the same conversation over and over for many hours. Her waking up and telling us she was disappointed that she was looking at us and not heaven.

“It’s not fair.  Why do they get to go and I’m still stuck here?”  In response to hearing of family members passing before her; then saying that she must still be here for a reason and to not refuse any visitors in case they need to hear something that she has to say.  Mumblings and ramblings 24 hours a day; doing our best to listen and converse.  Almost constant praying and conversations with God as if he was standing beside her holding her hand.  “He knows everything so I don’t have to.”

She is no longer able to drink.  Wiping out her mouth with a sponge.  She is no longer able to see.  Not recognizing pictures of family.  Her having her eyes closed for hours and suddenly opening them wide as if startled and not knowing where she is.  Knowing that my Mother was starving to death and there was nothing I could do.

Never seeing her cry a single tear.  Visitors coming to say goodbye day after day. Thankful she is no longer thirsty and asking for something to drink.

The following strange and morose checklist that became normal:  Have her feet started to turn blue yet?  How many seconds between breaths?  Have her hands or feet started to swell?  Has her pulse changed?  Has liver failure begun?  And being slightly disappointed when nothing had changed.

Waiting for her relief.


The Last Christmas

Christmas of 2009 was going to be different, we all knew that.  Mom was nervous but wanted to make the most of the holiday.  She wanted to have Christmas at our new house but she hadn’t left Steinbach except for doctor appointments and tests since May.  I’m not even sure if she had been out to my sister’s house 15 minutes south of town.  So for her to think of going all the way to our house in Winnipeg she was very nervous.  We assured her of how close we are to a hospital just in case.  She was more worried about how to handle her colostomy away from home.  She always made sure that she was home within a few hours where she was more comfortable.  I made sure that we had whatever she needed to take care of herself.  She got a ride with my sister and her family on her 68th birthday, December 24th.

We had a big meal, of course.  Mom played piano for what would be the last time.  We had birthday cake with sparklers.  We got a few really good pictures of her.  She was the happiest and healthiest we had seen her in a very long time.  Healthy is relative of course but she didn’t have as many tumors in her so she felt better.  She was tired but she seemed lighter and happier.  She had really good color in her face for the first time in over a year.  She commented that it was one of the best Christmas’s we had had in a long time.  We had tried really hard to lift her spirits and I knew that this could very well be her last one.  We also wanted to be sure that the grandkids had a wonderful last Christmas/birthday with Grandma to remember.

After Christmas Mom was anticipating surgery again on January 14th.  They were going to reverse her colostomy, do a hysterectomy and remove more tumors.  She was nervous about it but so happy to get rid of the colostomy nothing else really mattered.  I am not a doctor and I don’t fully understand the intricacies of why the colostomy was reversed or how.  There were conflicting stories along the way and it was just glossed over by the fact that she was so happy.  She didn’t care why or what, just that it would be gone.

A week or so before her surgery I got a call from my sister that Mom had fainted again; this time in a restaurant.  My Mom had gone out on her own to the restaurant where my sister works; she went there almost every day so everyone knew her.  My sister wasn’t working but her co-workers had called her in a panic and she had rushed into town.  Mom had a piece of pie and when she got up to leave she felt funny.  One of the waitresses saw her in the camera from the kitchen and noticed that she was staggering so she ran out to check on her.  Mom came around the corner to pay and tried to get to the counter in time to hold on.  The waitress came around the other corner in time to see Mom start to go down so she ran over and was able to help her lay on the floor instead of crashing.  They then called my sister.  When Mom came around she insisted that she did not need an ambulance or to see a doctor.  The waitress agreed they wouldn’t do anything until my sister got there.  Rebecca agreed to not take her to the hospital because Mom had been thoroughly checked out for the fainting spells and there wasn’t really an explanation other than low oxygen but not enough to put her on oxygen.  I called a bunch of times to be sure that she was all right and home care doted on her.  Mom recovered from it that evening and again couldn’t figure out what the big deal was.  The next time we got a chance we asked the doctor if it was safe for her to be driving – what if she fainted while driving.  The doctors reassured us that driving in small amounts around town was still safe because the fainting was related to standing up.  As long as she stayed sitting she was fine.  So she gave us dirty looks, stuck her tongue out at us, said “I told you so.” and drove where she wanted.

We were definitely reminded that even if Mom had the best color in her cheeks we’d seen in months or that she was happier we still had to be on our guard.  Every time we felt like we knew where we stood something would happen to shake us up again.

Christmas in Florida

Two years ago I was at a support group meeting for victims of crime.  It was just before Christmas and one of the questions was, “Are you looking forward to Christmas?”  I believe I was the only one there that night that said, “Yes.”  Most of the others have lost children or siblings or the innocence of their children.  And they were pretty much unanimous, “No.”  I understood why they weren’t looking forward to Christmas in their situations.  When you lose a child who loves Christmas and always helped you decorate – how do you decorate a tree without them?  There is always someone missing at the table.  There are presents missing under the tree.  I can’t imagine the heartbreak that these parents have gone through over the years.  The majority of them said that they would prefer to be anywhere but home at Christmas.  The memories are just too painful.  I watched my Mother struggle through Christmas for many years.  It was my Dad’s favorite holiday.

Well, I felt a little left out.  Not in a bad way, there is always acceptance in this group.  But for me my loss happened before I knew about Christmas.  They were just as I had always known them.  And I have my children to celebrate with.  Christmas had changed with the passing of my father-in-law and my grandmothers but not enough to make me avoid the celebration.  And that year was one of the best Christmases we had with my Mom and family.  But as I answered that question with “yes” I had no idea that would be my last Christmas with my Mom.  I had no idea that she would die one week before Christmas and her birthday the next year.  My answer would be different now.

Pasith and I have lost three parents between us.  My Dad passed away right before Father’s Day, his own birthday and my birthday.  Pasith’s Dad passed in the 4 days between our wedding anniversary and Pasith’s birthday.  And my Mom passed one week before her birthday and Christmas.  Except for our children’s birthdays every one of our celebratory days has now been impacted and surrounded by death.  It has always been a struggle to see the joy through the pain around my Dad’s death.  And then when Pasith’s Dad died just a few weeks before the anniversary of my Dad it made it even more difficult to ride the roller coaster but we have fought our way through it.  And now Christmas isn’t even safe.  It now has a giant scar.

December was a blur last year.  I don’t really remember much of December at all.  It was spent driving and waiting.  And when Mom finally did pass on December 17th, her funeral on the 20th, her burial on the 21st and we got home on the 22nd, everyone knew it was pretty much a right off for us.  We had bought the kids a few gifts in November not knowing what to expect so we did make an effort for them but my son and I were very sick for about 4 days from Christmas Eve on which didn’t help much.  But we tried.  As far as everyone else was concerned it was accepted and understandable that we were not in the Christmas spirit.

This year I am really struggling.  My husband and I wish we could just get on a plane and go to Florida or Mexico away from the usual northern reminders of Christmas.  But we can’t.  And we know it’s not fair to the kids.  But I have no interest in it whatsoever.  It may change as it gets closer and as my daughter gets excited about putting up the tree and decorating.  It may change as we buy and wrap gifts.  It may change when I go to the Christmas Eve service in honor of Mom’s birthday.  Or it might not.  It may change next year, or not.  I don’t like it that the death of my Mom overshadows not only my Christmas but my children, my husband and my involvement with our families but I just can’t pretend this year.  Maybe I’ll feel up to it next year or maybe I’ll just start saving up for Florida.