Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Letter from a friend

On December 9th, I wrote this to a dear family friend who asked how I was doing:
I decorated the house yesterday and put up our tree. I'm writing cards now and listening to Christmas music on Pandora (every other song makes me think of mom and I cry). The downside of deep-seated tradition is that if something goes awry or a primary player is absent, NOTHING feels the same. I'm trying to let Christmas keep Mom alive in my heart - it was the season that she lived for. Letter writing, craft making, cookie baking, neighbor visiting, gift giving, carol singing, she did it all. And she loved it - she was never begrudging. Christmas feels sad this year (and has for the last several years) but also holy. I'm trying to let my heart stay open and soft and grieve as I need to - it just takes a lot of energy and grace to let myself bleed out emotionally from time to time. 
In response, my friend wrote the following. It has changed my perspective considerably.
I think your approach to grieving over your mom's absence is sensible and sounds normal to me. It's no fun, though. But remember she is right there with you. She'd hug you if she could. Assume she is there with you. Talk to her. I do with my dad. Very occasionally he answers me. Every time I think of your mom and can hear her voice in my memory, I feel as though she is there standing next to me saying that very thing to me. She has not gone very far away. She can see you, hear you, love you. And it is not always going to be one-way. Look for when she tries to communicate with you. It will be quiet and seem very normal, almost so normal it will be a little hard to believe it is not your imagination. But a loving God does not tear loving families apart. God knows what you will find believable and your mom will communicate with you under those circumstances. Do not give up your hope that she is very much still in existence and still loving you, sweetie. She has moved on to her next adventure and is looking for opportunities to communicate with you. 
In the last few weeks, the things that overwhelm me, the big and little memories of Mom that blare "SHE'S GONE," now feel more like little greetings from her. Like reading a beautifully illustrated pop-up book, Christmastime is full of special moments, surprises, and reminders of her. And since reading my friend's reminder, they all bring me joy.

When I made ornaments out of cinnamon and applesauce, I told Mom I missed her and how much I wished she was there with me.

When I visited my favorite antique store yesterday and found tiny Swedish candle holders just like hers, I bought them as tokens of happy Christmases spent with my grandma in Seattle, in the same house where Mom lived when she was in high school and college.

When I listen to Brian Setzer's jazzy version of the Nutcracker Suite, I can visualize Mom tapping her foot and bobbing her head to the rhythm.

When I learned Sunday morning that my dear grandmother (Dad's mom) passed away, my first thought was of Mom, and I asked her to help us grieve and honor her mother-in-law. She would know the right words to say.

Though Christmas this year has a deep ache of absence, there's also plenty of celebration. Tonight, my family will exchange gifts. Dad is home from his month-long cross-country trip, my siblings are a fun crowd to hang out with, our significant others get along well and roll with the punches, and Clive is old enough to tear wrapping paper this year! Tomorrow we will open presents with Hubbins' family at my sister in law's beautiful home - big breakfast, strong coffee, fire place roaring.

I know I will see Mom's smiling face and hear her laughter echo in ours. What a gift.