More catalogs and advertisements are filling our mailbox this time of year. Tucked between Golf Digest, an ad for car sales and one actual Christmas card was the Mrs. Fields catalog. They come around holidays and are tossed in the recycle bin with old newspapers and unwanted ads. I glanced at it thinking, when have I ordered Mrs. Fields cookies and then I remembered. The past few years that mom was in a Memory Care facility I sent a tin of goodies for her to share with the staff. She’s always had a sweet tooth and we quit worrying about her sugar once Alzheimer’s took control of her mind.
This has been the year of first in her passing. The first year I haven’t bought her a Mother’s Day or birthday card and the first I won’t send her one at Christmas with a tin of assorted cookies. She hasn’t known these were sent by her first born. It didn’t matter, I’d sent them for me, because I still knew she was my mama.
Holidays can magnify our feelings of loss. We remember how uncle Johnny would have led the family prayer around the table or how mama would have feigned surprise when we opened our gifts. Their favorite Christmas carols and tireless desire to help others show up in our playlist and every time we drop some change in one of those red buckets. These memories can well up inside of us and slip down our faces as the tears fall, or worse, we try to hold them back.
Here’s the thing, it’s okay. It’s all okay.
“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” – Anne Lamott
It didn’t happen right away, but with some time I’ve come to welcome those softened pulls of grief, allowing them to replace the hurt with comfort. Feeling my heart smile more than cry when I look at the photos when we were together. I can laugh when I think of that one photo where my father-in-law left a knit cap on his head the whole time we opened presents. This was out of character for him and the picture of him and my mother-in-law sitting side by side in their flannel shirts brings a tender smile to my face.
I had too few holidays with my parents but rather than lament the time lost I’m learning to find gratitude in the times we had.
and a source for joy.
I can’t unwrap our Christmas decorations without missing mama or Barbara. The Salvation Army band playing makes me think of daddy and uncle Johnny and their love for the brass music. Every glimpse of the old photos remind me of youth that’s given way to age and nothing is as it was. But it is good.
I’m coaxing gratitude to keep company with the memories. It doesn’t come natural but it’s true. And true is better than good.