“The first holidays can be pretty tough.”
I’ve been told this by many as I navigate my way thru this first year after losing our mom. Good news for me, I already know how hard the holidays can suck having had a sick loved one for so many, so let’s do this.
Since June passed away back in April, I’ve celebrated Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween, my birthday, and her birthday. Gradually checking “firsts” off of my list. Oddly, her birthday wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. It felt like more of a void than a heartbreak.
It was my birthday that was the strangest of them all, so far. I was celebrating my birth, yet the person that did all the birthing wasn’t here. It’s like – “Well, where the hell did I come from then?”
It’s safe to say, my 37th trip around the sun was most definitely surreal.
When June was alive, I’d go to her home and sit quietly with her for my birthdays. We found a new way to celebrate my day together. Quite different from years before when we would make our annual trip to Nordstrom for lunch and a little shopping. (That was our thing.)
Our revised tradition consisted of a delicious birthday lunch and cake prepared by her caregiver, Zina. We’d take turns spoon-feeding June her meal and dessert. Each year knowing it was soon to be our last one spent together.
Not visiting her this year was particularly devastating. Although I know I would get an emotionless stare back, all I wanted to do was hug her and tell her how much I love her. Oh, my heart. That “first” challenged me.
And now it’s the holidays…Fa la la la f*******ck.
Last Christmas I cried in her kitchen – I knew it was her last. I cried the many Christmas’ before that because she was no longer able to come to our family celebration – the exact one she worked tirelessly on year after year in an effort to make it beautiful for her family and friends.
Now, don’t get me wrong, every Christmas Eve morning back then was utter chaos in our home. June was on a warpath. She’d holler that no one was helping her and she was right, we were assholes. We’d seek refuge on the third floor where we’d sit, smoke cigarettes, and drink Miller Lites. We’re a classy bunch.
STOP SMOKING ON THE THIRD FLOOR! she’d scream from two floors down. Oh my god, we would die laughing, yet were so scared of her. She was taking no prisoners.
How our mom put up with us, I’ll never know. But I can tell you this, I would do anything to hear her yell at us one last time.
This is technically the first holiday season without my mom, but in all honesty, due to her disease, I have been grieving the loss of my mother for many holidays over many years. She’s been gone for a pretty long time in my book.
I’m actually hopeful that this year I will feel a sense of relief. Perhaps instead of feeling anger and sadness, I can celebrate the season fully and properly grieve her being gone with a more optimistic mindset.
I’m curious to know what a guilt-free Christmas will feel like; she’s no longer sitting at home alone with a caregiver, she’s no longer suffering from dementia, and she’s no longer a prisoner in her own body.