Sunday, December 19, 2010

Grief. Today I Get to Celebrate

Grief. It's an odd thing. And we all seem to handle it in different ways, though most people will lovingly pat your shoulder and tell you that you eventually move on from it and get past at least the deepest part of the grief anyway. Life is for the living they say.

13 years ago today my Mama died. It was devastating to me for years, and most of that came from my anger at how unfair it all was. My Mama tolerated much in her lifetime, but she did what many women of her generation did and lived with the unfairness for the sake of her children. For her to leave in death, to leave me, to leave us, and at age 61, only 8 years older than I am now, was just so wrong. I guess I spent a lot of years being angry about that - angry with who or what, I don't know. My dad. God. Even her for not giving up cigarettes long before. She missed so much.

She didn't see my son, her first grandson, graduate. She didn't get to go to his wedding. Or meet her third grandchild (my brother's son) or her first great grandchild, my son's son. Or her great grand-daughter. Being a part of their lives would have brought such joy to her. Cancer is just so unfair like that.

We found out Mama had lung cancer only weeks before she died, though she had suffered in silence pretty much for years. I'm sure she knew for as long, but pushed it aside in denial or fear until it was too late. Mama was the kind of person who went all out at Christmas, decorating, shopping, cooking.  She absolutely loved Christmas - it was her favorite time of year. When she died on the 19th, and we buried her the day before Christmas Eve, it changed the entire fabric of Christmas for me. That seems so stupid and self-centered, but Christmas lost much of its joy for many years for me after Mama died.

That first year I journaled through a lot of the emotions as if I were talking to her - I think that it helped some to do that. Click on the picture to enlarge if you'd like to read it - I still have that Kitchen Aid mixer and for years I cried every time I used it. I mostly just smile now.

I try to remember the last part on that page, but it's hard. Grief... it's hard.  And it is especially hard around Christmas. Thankfully the Christmas season is getting better now that there are little grandbabies in the picture these last couple of years, but for some reason, I still cannot seem to get pass the sadness until this 19th of December passes.

On that day, I grieve. I finally cry. No, that's not true. I sob. And then, I suddenly feel like it's okay to celebrate again. I don't want it to be this way and in fact, I only really came to the realization that I do this. We all grieve differently.

I've noticed here and there lately on Twitter and on Facebook, comments with traces of cynicism and that underlying snippy sarcasm from others. Maybe I'm just hypersensitive to that sort of thing, but I've wondered. Does this negativism come from their own brushes with grief from losses in their own lives that tend to surface this time of year with the holidays?  Maybe so. Loss and rejection come in many forms - and it isn't just restricted to death either. This holiday is one to dredge it all up. I guess, we should all try to be kind to the unkind, because they may be hurt and suffering in their own grief.

So if you know someone who has lost somebody, call them. Take them to lunch. Go shopping with them. Bring them some Christmas cookies. Better yet, make cookies with them. Share your love with them. They need it.

Today I begin to celebrate!

I celebrate my Mama and all the love she shared with us, her pride in the way her children turned out despite the obstacles in our lives. I celebrate the way that my Mama would in the spirit of the love that is Christmas.

The night before Mama died, she threw back the covers on her bed and said she was going to "go fly with the angels." That next night as we all held vigil at her bedside, we had somehow forgotten to place her crucifix in her hands. The very instant I entwined it into her hands, my aunt told us all to let her go and take our hands away from Mama. To let her go.  Just as we all removed our touch, she inhaled, exhaled, and in that very last breath, was gone.

At her funeral we played Celine Dion "Because You Loved Me."  No words could have said it better.  On her headstone we had engraved "Angels Fly Thee Home."  It seemed fitting, and while I'm not much of a poet, I wrote this poem with these last final days in mind.

Guardian Angel
Mary Foreman

Arriving like a whisper,
in a cold rush of air
the subtle flutter
of wings, like silk.

Extraordinary beauty
this celestial being,
ivory skin aglow,
she casts the light of truth.

Ever present, the divine protector,
a comfort in time of need.
Sheltered in the safety of her wings,
I am, safe from harm.

Satisfied, the task complete
she spreads her wings
taking flight.
Heavenly peace covers her face
and in one slow exhale,
she flies home.

Because You Loved Me
Celine Dion

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I'll be forever thankful

You're the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You're the one who saw me through - through it all

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'cuz you believed

I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love I had it all

I'm grateful for each day you gave me
Maybe I don't know that much
But I know this much is true
I was blessed because I was loved by you

You were always there for me
The tender wind that carried me
A light in the dark shining your love into my life
You've been my inspiration
Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you

I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

Merry Christmas Mama.



  1. Mary as I have tears in my eyes I too can relate! My Mom died in October of 2004 at 60 yrs old. She too loved Christmas and I find myself carrying on many of her traditions now. That is one thing I can keep alive. I pray you have a wonderful Christmas our Momma's would have wanted it that way!

  2. Thank you Grace and HUGS to you too! So hard isn't it?

  3. Well, now you have me crying. While I still have my mother, I can understand the pain you feel because I have a very close relationship with her. The thought of her one day not being here breaks my heart, and I know as each year passes, that day moves closer. That sounds so morbid to say, I know, but the reality is that she is 80 and that is the truth.

    I'm glad that through it all you are able to grieve but still find the joy in life around you. While I know the pain of losing someone you love never goes away, at least the time where you can grieve but than move on a bit once you have is what you have to deal with now.

    A big hug to you, Mary. Your post was a beautiful tribute to your mom!


  4. Oh Mary, I just can't cry anymore. My mom died at 67 of cancer. As you know I carry on the Christmas Eve feast for our family in Florida and have done so for many years before Mom passed. We cooked together for days before. After my mom died I would cry most of the time I was preparing the meal. That has passed but the empty spot remains as strong as ever. It's a sick, lost feeling and always resurfaces at Christmas. She so looked forward to the holiday and family but mostly the kids.

    That anger, it seems that anger is part of the disease. I don't think I was ever angry, just lost and sad. I would have taken that upon myself not to see her suffer as she did. The long, roller-coaster ordeal altered my life forever. Dad lives here now. This will be his first Christmas with us. Every year I try to focus on her love and envision her smile, it helps.

    They are definitely in a better place but that somehow doesn't make it easier for us does it.

    Bless you my dear friend and do have a wonderful Christmas. The spirit and love of mom is with you always!

  5. Big gentle hugs for you Mary. We all do grieve in our own way. I'm glad you can smile now. I'm blessed to still have my mother, but lost my father in 98' He was my best friend. This was beautifully written.

  6. I'm bawling like a baby and I am so glad I have this emotional outlet today. My Mother too learned she had cancer 1 week before Christmas and was gone by mid January. Even though my story with my Mom was different, I miss her still and feel the loss this time of year. It has only been 8 years and sometimes I still can't believe she won't be here Christmas morning in the kitchen doing what she always did.

    Hugs to you my dear, The Olde Bagg, Linda

  7. Dannnng - what was I doing reading this this morning before finishing a first cup of coffee? Last night was The Longest Night, Mary, a time of reflection of the losses in our lives before the celebration of the birth of the Christ child. I leave the quote for you, dry my tears, and get about the day:
    The Longest Night
    The Christmas Spirit is that hope which tenaciously clings to the hearts of the faithful.
    And announces in the face of any Herod the world can produce
    And all the inn doors slammed in our faces
    And all the dark nights of our souls
    ...That with God
    All things are possible,
    That even now
    Unto us
    A child is born!


  8. I'm joining in too. Lost my mom
    at 57 Camcer. I was 21. It is so very many things she never got do. or see. This night my dear friend. we are with you in spirit, and offer hugs and handholding together. Someday it will be all right again. It will all be good again.

  9. So glad I didn't read this before today. We lost my mother last year (November - she was 63 - Alzheimer's). We lost my dad this year on December 20, completely unexpected. I can't even begin to imagine what Christmas will be like next year. In the midst of the pain there will be joy. My oldest son's birthday is the 19th. I just hope I don't let my grief overshadow his day.


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