Christmas Without Mom

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I’ve been extremely melancholy and tender hearted these last few days.  This will be my first Christmas without my Mom.  When she passed away last March, we were all greatly saddened and yet happy for her to be released from her body that was making her unhappy.  She was ready to go home and be reunited with Dad.

Our first Christmas without Dad was hard too, but for some reason, this year it’s super hard for me with Mom being gone.  She loved Christmas so much.  Perhaps it’s because it’s the first Christmas without at least one of my parents here.

I’ve probably talked about this before, but Christmas has always been a big deal for me…. as far as family goes.  While the hustle and bustle and anticipation have always been fun, the most important thing of all was having family together.  Our family traditions are what made me look forward to the Christmas season.  As I get older, I realize just how important those family times are.

I was raised in a close family.  At least those of us that lived around got together often.  While raising my kids, we spent almost every Sunday evening at my parents home.  We would gather for ‘cheeseies’ (a family tradition of an open faced broiled cheese sandwich) each week, spend time together and the cousins would play.  It meant the world to me and was a priority in my mind.

At Christmas time we would gather each Christmas Eve.  The evening would start with a big dinner; with tables and chairs strung everywhere as the family grew.  Then we would gather in the living room and portray the Nativity with each of the kids acting out the parts.  My daughter, Mandy, being the youngest girl (of only a handful of girls) in the family got the honor of playing Mary for many years.  Our costumes always consisted of sheets, towels, scarfs and tinsel with the manger being a doll cradle and who knows what doll for the baby Jesus, unless there was a newborn in the family…. then they got the honored roll of being the Baby Jesus.

After acting out the Nativity, we would sing songs (sometimes my kids would be the entertainment since they participated in a kids performing group back then) and we would wait in anticipation for Santa’s arrival.  We always tried to keep the kids distracted and occupied while we waited for his arrival.

Once Santa arrived through the front door, it was mayhem and excitement!  He would sing a couple of songs with us and then reach in his big bag and call out the name of each of the kids one at a time.  They would come sit on his lap and get their small gift from him.  It was an opportunity for each child to have their photo taken with Santa by their parents.  It was a joy to watch from year to year, the young kids go from being petrified of him to jumping on his lap.  (And what a hoot to look back at the photos and see the styles we wore!)  He would have us sing a few more songs and end with Jingle Bells as he left to ‘go to the next house’.  What a fun tradition that was.

Then we would exchange gifts amongst cousins and adults (drawing names as the family got bigger).  Then off to our own homes to get the children all snuggled in their beds with visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads.  Christmas Eve.  The best part of Christmas for me growing up.

As my parents aged, they were getting tired of all the clean up…. plus the family growing with many great grand kids made it a tight fit for their home.  We spent several years trying to do it in their church cultural hall.  Then grand kids grew, started marrying people who had their own Christmas Eve traditions and it turned into a party at some local ‘event’ place (like a Roller Skating facility) one a night other than Christmas Eve for the last few years before my Dad passed.

Once Dad passed and Mom had had her stroke, she ended up needing 24 hour care and spent the last 6 years of her life in an Assisted Living facility.  We were always able to reserve one of the rooms there to hold a family party, but it was never on Christmas Eve again.  Too many family members with their own Christmas Eve traditions…. but none the less…. we gathered.

Mom with Daisy on her lap last Christmas Eve at her place.  You can se the joy in her face of having us there.

Mom with Daisy on her lap last Christmas Eve at her place. You can se the joy in her face of having us there.

The last few Christmas Eve’s, my little family has spent the evening with my Mom at her Assisted Living place.  Sometimes we sang for all the patients there…. but last year, we just spent time with her in her room and sang to her.  She loved it.  It meant so much to her.  We always took the time to look through the Christmas album the family and made for my parents several years back with photos of all those great Christmas Eve’s.  I’m feeling sad I don’t have that at my house this year.

I just don’t know what I’m going to do with myself this year without her here to spend Christmas Eve with!  My heart has been so tender these last few days.  I’ve shed many tears missing her and Dad and those sacred traditions.  I want so desperately to carry on some of those traditions in our family.  It’s been hard because my children haven’t been married with kids of their own up to this point, so we haven’t had the little ones around to treasure those moments.  I know it will come.  Jon and Ali got married this year and I have BIG hopes of it all beginning soon.  I just pray that it will become as important to them as it is to me.

Family is everything to me.  I want to spend more time together than we do.  I love them all so much.  We are trying to carry on the larger gathering of the family for a Christmas party.  I promised Mom we would.  Though it won’t be till the first of the year…. we will still gather and enjoy each others company…. laugh at the White Elephant exchange and just be grateful for one another.   As with anything in life, it gets harder and harder to make the schedule work for everyone to be there….. but we will do our best and miss those that can’t make it.  And Mom will be happy we did.

I am SO grateful for parents who started and kept such special traditions in our family.  The thing that amazes me the most is that none of the spouses of us siblings had a spouse with Christmas Eve family traditions.  The party at the Bangerter home was the priority!  And you darn well better be there!  It wasn’t until the grandkids started getting married that we ran into conflicts with other family gatherings.  We were blessed to go so many years without those conflicts.

I’m grateful for my family and want them to treasure this time of year as much as I do.  I know Mom and Dad will be with us all in spirit, but I miss them so terribly much this time of year!

Much love to you all and may you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas with cherished loved ones by your side.  And if they aren’t able to be with you…. may you be able to communicate with them all your love.  MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL…. but especially to you MOM!!  May your first Christmas in Heaven with Daddy be one of your best!  You can SEE and MOVE and SING!  I love that….. it makes me so happy to think about that.  Miss you tons!

I Am Grateful!  How Are You?

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4 responses »

  1. I know just how you feel. I, too, lost my mom this past March and am finding this holiday season difficult. There are semi-good days and not so good days. I still have my dad and am trying very hard to be strong for him. Part of my dad died along with my mom. I know she is with her parents and family and is looking down upon all of us. That gives me comfort. I want to feel the same I’ve felt from Christmases past, but I can’t.

    • The first Christmas if by far the most difficult! Even though we were blessed to have my Mom around for 6 more years after my Dad died…. it was never quite the same but I was always so grateful that at least we had her! I will always get a little melancholy around Christmas since so many of my memories of Christmas time include my parents. Very bittersweet. It’s just comforting to know they are with loved ones on the other side and that in many ways I can feel their guidance in my life.

      God bless you as you get through this hard time! It will get better for both of us!

      • Thank you for your kind words. Yesterday was better than I expected. Christmas Eve was hard, not sure why, but it was. Thankfully, my dad seemed pretty good yesterday. I tried my best to make it a good Christmas for him. Ever since he was a little boy he has had mincemeat pie for dessert on Christmas, not something any of us would eat. I made him 5 mini mincemeat pies, one for yesterday and the others to take home. He was so appreciative. That’s all I needed, happiness for my dad. I think if I knew he could be happy each day, it would be easier for me. He has always been such a social person and now that my mom is gone, his social life has plummeted. He does still keep up with some of his social connections, but it’s not the same. I worry about him and find it so hard to witness the decline of a man that was one so strong become a man that is so dependent upon his children. Of course, we are here for him and would do whatever possible to help him, it’s just hard to accept the fact that he his old now and needs us in a different way at this time in his life.

        Thank you again for your kind words, I truly appreciate it.

      • What a kind gesture to make him those pies! Trying our best to help them still experience the things they love can sometimes be a challenge.

        After my Dad passed, my Mom would just sit at home in her chair and stare at the TV. Often it wasn’t even turned on. That was hard to watch. And she was the same as your Dad…. not very motivated to do social things with anyone other than family. But she adored having family around. Up until the very end it was the most important thing to her.

        In some ways, her stroke was a blessing. Once we put her in the Assisted Living Center for more care, she became much more social because she had friends around her. Some she had even gone to school with. She became the Mother Hen to several of the residents there as she was so concerned for their welfare that she was always checking on them and making sure they were being taken care of properly. I think she felt more useful that way and really did enjoy having the company of others around. But… her last few years were very different as she became less and less able to do things on her own. Always hard to see them decline in such way….. but a blessing for us as children to be there for them and help as much as we can.

        Keep up the love and caring. You will not regret it and your Dad appreciates it in more ways than he may ever express. God bless

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