Christmas & Grief

Dear Mom,
I haven’t written you in awhile. It isn’t because I’m not thinking of you. On the contrary, it’s a daily, if not hourly reoccurence. It’s been officially 10 months and 3 days since you left and we’re approaching the time of year that I’m dreading possibly the most, this first round of holidays without you here.  I’ve felt a little bit at a loss for words for much of 2017, which is saying something considering I’ve had verbal diarrhea most of my life. I’m never at a loss for words. But you were always my unofficial proofreader, sometimes censor, to a point. And as it turns out, maybe also my unofficial audience. Maybe it really was to you that I was unconsciously writing this entire time. Could that be?

It’s been a whirlwind first semester of 4th grade for Jude. Oh how I wish you could see him! He’s so tall and handsome and he’s changed so much in the past year. We talk about you often, and he always says the most profound and comforting things about you, how you’re with us even when you’re not really here. I am in awe of him.

And at the same time, I’m wishing you were around to tell me how to survive his tween and adolescence. I feel woefully unprepared, and while he’s such a great kid overall, he is still human. I think back to all the times I was nasty to you at this particular age. How do you keep from going ape on these kids?

Thanksgiving was last week, and if I’m being honest, I dreaded it. We had a big Shingleton family cruise that we all went on, and it was scheduled long before you died. But I still felt like I was running away. Like I was escaping the terribleness of being at Buckboard Lane with everybody there, except you. Like I’m prolonging the inevitable. And so I cried for two days because it just felt so damn horrible. Unfathomable. Wretched. But … still more manageable than it did previously. I’m learning how to sit well with my grief, relieved almost that I’m allowed to feel sad. It arrives, unceremoniously, pushy, unwelcome, but I nod to acknowledge it and let it in.

The worst part of this grief business was from your birthday in April until just after my birthday in May (let’s not even talk about how stupid terrible Mother’s Day was). The shock had worn off and it was real, what had happened. The days were brutally long, and the emotion felt so great. And the ensuing summer months were a welcome relief. No schedule – just plenty of time to rest, rejuvenate and be. I cried on the trip to Florida because that house was so spectacular – you would have been jumping up and down with joy over it. It was magnificent in the way that you appreciated and grand in the way that you liked to spoil us all.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

But with the holidays approaching, my grief has crept up the back of my throat again, clinging to me like a baby monkey on it’s mother’s back. I try to give in to it when it happens, knowing that I can’t ignore it – it will only get louder. And it shows up at the most inopportune moments somehow. Sometimes I can see it coming and other times I can’t. It’s a less heavy burden than it used to be, but I still carry it. We all do. To go through all these major family holidays without you is paralyzing and gut-wrenchingly awful.

O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go.

O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.

So the challenge is greater this year, to find JOY in the season despite our circumstances. Advent – the anticipation of Jesus, of the  great Savior of the World who will redeem all of us from the wretchedness of this world- feels especially profound to me.  We groan in our shared suffering, this entire broken world. We need a Savior to rescue us from ourselves, from the nonstop reckoning of our sin.

O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.

I love you, Mom. And I miss you. We carry on, but wow – what a hole you’ve left behind.


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  • Carolina Rubio MacWright

    Had me in tears. This is one of your most beautiful raw pieces. Thank you .

    Holding you tight friend.

  • Kristin Burns

    Hugs to you. I am the only girl in a family with 3 brothers and grandchildren who are all boys. My mom is my best friend and I simply cannot imagine a life without her. I keep those thoughts locked away and your piece reminds me just how grateful I am to have her in my life and present for me and also my son. Thank you for sharing.

  • cat

    AHHH, I am so sorry and I completely understand your grief and its many phases and rearing its head with NO notice. It is a beast unto itself. I lost my mother when I was eleven and there are still days I long for her and mourn. It sucks. There is no other way to put it. Loss is devastating and only time makes it less painful and not as all consuming which you have experienced now a bit since she passed away. The first year is the hardest. There is an anniversary for every event you shared together or even did not share together. And the holidays?! They can be just overwhelming. You are so brave to feel it and that is the only way to cut off its tentacles as you know. You are so wise. And the anticipation of an event without her can be worse than the event itself. The lead up, the fear of whet you will feel, if that uncontrollable pain will come back and how long will it stay. There is nothing you can do except put one foot in front of the other, baby steps. Try to flatten the mountain. Right now you only have to wash the dishes, thats it. Then the next task. Baby steps. Getting up in the morning, anything can be so hard. Jsut put your feet on the floor and if you have to lay down again then do it. Back to feet on the floor. You will move thru this you wonderful, wonderful loving woman who was raised by the same type of woman.
    XXOO cat

  • Maise

    You are a beautiful writer and a true Christian saved by the blood. you make me weep, my grief is spoken through your thoughtful yet passionate phrases