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Let your tears come. Let them water your soul.
– Eileen Mayhew

“The week” is here.

Two years ago at this time, I was sitting at Mom’s bedside focused on every subtle change in her breathing. The end was days, if not hours, away.

Final Days: The Vigil

Watching a loved one die is a surreal experience. Somewhere in the far reaches of your mind, you have this misguided, nonsensical notion that she’s going to get better. But your logical self knows that isn’t the case. You know that ultimately, you will be packing up her things and leaving this place without her. Just the thought of it leaves you with a knot the size of Texas in your stomach.

One minute, you are quietly talking to God asking Him to take her, praying that her suffering will finally come to an end. And then you find yourself begging Him for just one more day with her.

That last day comes; something is different. You know the end is near. You watch as she takes her final breath, and it’s as though you can feel her soul being lifted toward the Heavens. It’s a moment etched in your memory forever. You’ll replay that last breath in your mind a million times. Even two years later, it feels like just yesterday.

Did she know I was right there with her until the end? Did she know how much I loved her and how sorry I was for those early years when I didn’t handle things as well as I could or should have?

Did she just squeeze my hand? Did she blink? No, that must have been my imagination. Or was it?

All I Want for Christmas Is… My Old Memories

This year, for the first time ever, I decided not to put up the tree. I feel overwhelmed and quite honestly, I’m really looking forward the holidays being over. I know there will be moments of joy, especially with the little ones, but the holidays will never be what they once were.

Christmas at Eason House, 2010

Christmas at Eason House, 2010

I’m angry that we were robbed of so many years. And, I’m sad that I can’t actually remember the last GOOD Christmas we had at Mom’s.

Even now my most vivid memory of Christmas Eve dinner was the last year she cooked and hosted. We were so mired in denial that we tried to go on as if things were fine. But they weren’t fine at all.

Mom was frazzled; preparing the meal was no longer enjoyable for her. It was a strain. She couldn’t get the timing quite right. There wasn’t enough food for everyone. When we sat down for the annual game of penny rummy, she said she didn’t feel like playing. The reality was, she didn’t remember how to play. She had done all these things a million times, but it was clear now that Alzheimer’s was winning. It was the end of an era. And dammit, that’s what I remember about Christmas at Mom’s.

New Traditions

Circa 1988. Mom at age 52.

Last year, realizing how difficult December 15th would be, we decided to do something fun that Mom would have enjoyed. We would make the best of the day and honor her memory. Baking Christmas cookies made the most sense.

Oh how she loved to bake, and her cookie trays always looked just perfect. Thus began a new tradition, “Gram’s Cookie Day.” So, this weekend instead of drowning in tears over what’s been lost, we’ll bake some old favorites. I’ve no doubt she’ll be watching over us to be sure everything is up to her standards. (((smile)))

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

My mom adored Christmas. She loved the decorations and traditions, loved being in the kitchen baking and cooking, and loved being surrounded by family. She was generous beyond words and it gave her such joy to watch as everyone opened the gifts she had carefully chosen.

I want to love the holidays as much as I used to; as much as Mom did. But, I fear those days may be gone forever. Now it seems the arrival of Thanksgiving is little more than a reminder of 2012.

December 15th will always arrive with a vengeance ten days before Christmas. There’s simply no way around it.

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