When I was 18 my mother was dying of cancer in the weeks before Christmas. I came home from college to a very sick mom, sick from chemo, sick from cancer, sick of being sick. She didn't want to die. During a time of remission she had believed that God had healed her. But now the cancer was back with fury and she was miserable.
My parents were separated. My younger sister was still in high school. There was no one around to take care of mom - no one who knew what to do. I was afraid of her sickness, grossed out by all the vomiting. I was a kid, and I responded like a kid. I was scared, worried, confused and I kept it all bottled up inside. I hated to show weakness. I didn't dare let myself feel what was going on around me.
I was at my boyfriend's house when my little sister called. Mom had asked my sister's boyfriend to drive her to the hospital. It was a Sunday night. Mom had been in and out of the hospital a lot. They took her to the hospital. I didn't go. I watched TV. The next day my older sister arrived from out of town. She visited mom faithfully. I stayed home. It was Christmas break. I could not deal with hospitals and sickness and all that crap. Mom would be home soon.
But Mom didn't come home. She died on Wednesday, three days before Christmas. I was there because my older sister had insisted we be there. It was horrible. Mom was on a ventilator. She was bloated. She was yellow. Her dentures were out. She was barely conscious, and she cried out in pain. We stood around. Me, my two sisters, and a cousin. When Mom was in too much pain I had to leave the room.
An alarm started to sound. The nurse kicked us all out. The doctor came, and in a few minutes told us Mom was gone. We all went back into the room and she was indeed gone. Gone was the struggle, the pain, and she looked relaxed. We stood around for a while. My little sister touched her. I stood a ways off. One minute she was there, the next minute she was gone. I believed she was in heaven, and that was a little comfort. Mostly I was numb.
It was years before I really grieved my mom's death. I was raised in a Christian community that believed that heaven was guaranteed for everyone who believed sincerely. We were told not to grieve, not to be sad, because my mother was with Jesus and a Christian death was a happy death. I finished college, traveled some, got a job, met my husband, got married, and then when I was pregnant with our first child, I finally let myself grieve. It was like a dam broke and all those years of pain came pouring out. My husband just let me cry. He even cried with me. I felt the hole in my heart get a little smaller.
Mom died in 1977 but I still get the sads just before Christmas every year. For a long time I just felt horrible and depressed and couldn't put my finger on it. Now I know it is just my old friend, Grief. Hey, it's been a whole year. I say hi to Grief, say some prayers, and then Grief leaves me alone. I still miss my mom, even after all these years. But the grief and loss no longer ruin the Advent season for me, as they did for quite a long time. I have forgiven myself for acting like a selfish kid when my mother was dying. I have put my trust in God, who really did know what was best for us and for our mother. I can look back and see all the good things that came from that tragic and traumatic event. And the sad things, I can let go.
This is the Mercy of God in my life. I was wounded, and there is still a scar, but it doesn't ache. I pray for Mom. I ask for her prayers. I talk to her. (Now that I'm Catholic, and so is Mom, that's ok). I miss her, but it's not a pain, just a little space in my heart that will always belong to her.
So, if you are sad at Christmas because of a loss, I really understand and I would like to pray for your healing. Post a prayer request - post it anonymously if you need to. I WILL pray for you. And I'll ask Mom to pray too. She was an amazing prayer lady, and still is.
I am a Catholic wife, mom and grandma. In 1995, after Bible college and a few years as an Evangelical Missionary, I was received into the Church at the Easter Vigil. These are my personal musings on Scripture, prayer, and living close to Jesus.