The day after Christmas it will be eight years since James went for a walk and died, unexpectedly, of cardiac arrest. He was the glue that held our family together, and his death was devastating for all who loved him. A few weeks before he died his son dropped out of law school and was hoping Dad would “fix things.” Instead of healing and fixing, there were “instances of regret” that Christmas. In an attempt to make sure he’d never run the risk of hearing what Dad thought of him, I believe his son cut me out of his life.
I haven’t heard from him since.
In many ways I thought of him as my son, too. I loved and adored him. I was proud of him. When he was 11, he walked me down the aisle; the three of us went on a honeymoon trip together, and when I started crying on the way home because I didn’t want our trip to end, this precious boy put his arms around me and said, “Don’t cry. We’ll do this again.” I never had children, but with him I got to experience Little League games—I captured his home run with my camera—family ski vacations and Christmas… things I’d never known before. As a young man he called me every week from Afghanistan, and when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, he came home from the Army to check on me.
Last summer when I was cleaning out my storage units, in a flash of melancholy I threw away all of the boxes marked “Xmas.” I can’t believe I did that because there were so many beautiful ornaments from my childhood and from my grandmother’s childhood like handmade paper dolls and small scrolls of old Christmas sheet music. That’s what losing your entire family on Christmas will do to you. The hurt is so deep you never want to feel that pain, again…
…so I understand a son’s pain of losing his father and fearing he’d learn things he couldn’t bear to hear.
For the last 10 years I’ve had either the Top Breast Cancer blog/website, or now I have the Top 10 Women Over 50 blog/website. I’ve been awarded these honors because in some way what I write resonates with all of you. I write about resilience and survivorship and being able to bounce back from most anything with a positive attitude. I’m transparent and share my feelings in hopes it will help just one of you. Throughout all of this you, my readers, my friends, have counted on me for encouragement and inspiration, and in return, you’ve cheered me on through the good and bad times. We give to one another, and for that, I’m grateful. Thank you.
Finding my Christmas spirit may be one of my toughest challenges, but I’m working on it. This was the first year since I lost my entire family that I’ve thought about buying a tree, but there aren’t any memories attached to new ornaments I would buy at random.
Every year since James died I’ve given each of my dear friends in my Bible study group a Christmas ornament. Some years I’ve bought myself the same ornament—a wooden cherub, blowing a trumpet and a beautiful gold cross—but they’re not enough to fill-up a tree. This week my sweet neighbor gave me a silver cross. It’s in my bedroom with my cherub, the ornament from my friends, Chuck and Joan, and the battery operated Christmas necklace I bought at Pier One. For now they will have to be enough.
Do the holidays sometimes make you melancholy? I hope not, but we need to know this, too, shall pass.