Say It! It Might Be You Last Christmas Together

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What you do before someone dies is very important. None of us knows if this might be the last Christmas with someone sitting across the table from us. We cannot predict our future, let alone our next day on earth.

But maybe some of you are caring for family or friends who are terminally ill, parents who are elderly and getting weaker or a person who may be struggling with a difficult illness.

I picked up a hitchhiker a number of years ago just before Christmas. He was about 30 years old.  He jumped into the car and thanked me. “Where are you headed?” he asked. “I’m going back home to see my family. My dad is dying and I need to spend some time with him,” he continued. “Good for you,” I replied. “Yeah,” he said, “I haven’t been home for ten years.” I waited for him to continue. “My Dad and I had a falling out and I left.” For over ten years, this young man had not been home or even spoken to his dad.

 …And now it was time.

I don’t know what happened and likely never will know. But I wondered – his dad had called him to come – did he and his dad exchange important words? Words that were spoken that may have freed each of their hearts?

Christmas is a time to…

  • tell people that you love them
  • let people know how much they mean to you
  • ask for forgiveness
  • let people know what they have contributed into this world that was significant

We should be doing all of the above not only when people are dying, but every time we meet.

Why not start this Christmas?

 

 

 

 

How to Invite Grandpa to Christmas the Year After His Death

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We are pretty careful as adults to make sure that our children or grandchildren are always happy at Christmas.

It’s the happiest time of the year. Isn’t it?

But Grandpa isn’t here. How do your little ones respond when Grandpa no longer comes with Christmas gifts, nor the laughter that he used to bring? No more hugs or cuddles or wrestling on the couch…

Should we fain happiness or should we allow sadness to come for a visit for a while? There is a purpose to sadness, even in the midst of the season of “good tidings and cheer”.

How about talking about Grandpa? How about a special time set aside to focus for a few moments on Grandpa? Everyone is missing him, so why not talk about him? Not saying anything is like ignoring the elephant in the room.

Why? Because we might cry?  Because we miss him? Because we still love him so much?

I miss my dad every Christmas and my children miss their grandpa too. We love talking about all the things that made him special to each one of us. Do we shed some tears? Sure, but we have a few laughs, and we are thankful for the time that we did have together.

Red Cabbage Is Much Better than Christmas Cake

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Have you ever noticed that there are some things you just can’t give up because they evoke a powerful memory? It immediately connects you with the person who has died and is no longer present at your celebrations. Take it away, and you distance the person who has died. We call this a connecting bond. It helps us to adapt to life without that person, but still have some kind of connection with them that is healthy.

The first Christmas following the death of their mom, my four children, ages 17-23, were expecting their mom’s favorite red cabbage recipe, which I did my best to replicate. It was important. Red Cabbage at Christmas is connecting bond for our family. It is one of our most precious Christmas meal traditions. We don’t often eat it at any other time of the year, but our kids expect it at the Christmas table.

Why? Because it’s part of their mom’s heritage and is now a part of our family tradition. Red Cabbage connects us with Pam because it reminds us of her. It often results in a conversation about our lives with her, which is good. We still love and miss her very much.

We do make changes in our lives as we transition through loss, but we don’t change too many things during this adaptation. Rituals, symbols and traditions give us some stability when things are difficult during special holidays celebrations.

You will know what’s important to you and your family.  Consider what these are and be intentional as you include them in your Christmas festivities.

Why Some People Fast-forward Through Christmas

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How many of you remember cassette tapes where you could fast-forward through a song that you didn’t like and find the one you preferred to listen to over and over again? It was never easy to guess when to stop the fast-forward button, and so you would have to stop and start a few times. Sometimes you would fast-forward for too long and miss the song that you really wanted to hear.

For many people, Christmas grief is much like that. They want to fast-forward to the other side of Christmas to a place where they don’t have to experience the season and the ‘song’ that goes with it.

Does that sound familiar?

Are you missing someone very special this Christmas? Is the thought of them not being there too difficult to imagine? You don’t want the strong emotions that come from their absence to overtake you. You would like to put your life and Christmas on fast-forward.

Let’s go back to the cassette tape for a moment. While I did prefer certain songs in the long playlist, I did take time to listen to a few others and began to enjoy different songs as well. Sometimes I’d land on one of the less familiar songs by accident, but decided to listen anyway. Soon, I began to appreciate those ones on the playlist as well.

Your Christmas will never be the same without that special person who is no longer present for your festivities. But do you really want to fast-forward through this Christmas?

Even in the midst of your missing, you must open up your heart to the new songs being played around you. You are not disallowing the old song to play in your heart, you are just opening yourself up to a world, to a life, to people that love you. Why not play a few notes for your hurting heart?

A “Remember Me” Legacy

poppy-e1415731891878-1024x764One cannot help but be deeply touched by the stories that flow out of Remembrance Day. Reading the newspapers, watching the T.V., seeing pictures and stories posted on Facebook. We all remember the legacy of individuals and their contributions and sacrifices for our present freedoms.

As we age, have failing health or are in the process of dying, we take time to reminiscence. In that time, we begin the work of understanding our legacy and our symbolic immortality.

What remains of our lives after we die?

How will I be remembered?

We want to know how we have contributed to the lives of those who are closest to us.

We want to think about how our lives will continue through our children.

We want to reflect upon how we have contributed towards a wider community.

We want to know if we have lived life well and had significant relationships.

We want to reflect the possibility of reunion and after life.

We ask the deeper questions about our personal significance, how we will ultimately be remembered and if there is the possibility of transcendence.

We may not have fought in a war and died unselfishly for a bigger cause, but each of us has left something behind that is significant.

This life review is important. If you are grieving, then take some time to thank the person (even though they have died) for the contributions they made in your life. If you are involved with someone who is dying, invite that person to reflect on his or her life. Help him or her get started by sharing how they have made an impact on your own life.

This is helping to create a Remember Me legacy.

Fill an Empty Chair with Mother’s Day Memories

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It only comes once a year, but it’s so important.

Why is it that special holidays and celebrations can be so hard for people who are grieving? How about Mother’s Day?  Are you without your mom this year? Did she die? Has it been a few years or more?

Mother’s Day comes whether you choose it not. You cannot ignore it because it’s all around you: flowers, chocolates, cards and lots of food and family get-togethers. How do you celebrate Mother’s Day without your Mom?

How do you find a place in your home for mom when the chair is empty at the table? Why not fill an empty chair with Mother’s Day memories.

Do everything for your mom that you would do if she were alive.  Make her favorite food; sing her favorite song; tell her favorite story; buy her favorite flowers; and eat chocolates in her honor and memory.

I guarantee that your day will be filled with good memories, much love but coated with a few tears.  But hey, it’s still Mother’s Day and you did have a mother and still do in your heart.

And yes, Pam, we bought a box of Turtles – the ones that you used to conveniently hide in your closet and nibble on when no one was watching.  And we will ALL enjoy them very much!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Still Remembering Pam’s Birthday

DSCN9550-1024x768It’s Pam birthday.  I can see her smiling face. I can hear the tone of her voice. “You guys, I don’t need a birthday party!”  “You shouldn’t have bought me a gift!”  “You have all gone overboard!”  Pam loved to give great and wonderful birthday parties. Each one had a specific theme and a detailed decorated cake.  Our kids can remember and tell you about the numerous, well planned, highly creative birthday parties their mom put together for them over the years.  But she didn’t want us to make it a big deal for her birthday. That’s just who she was.

People say the first birthday of a loved after their death is the most difficult.  It’s still hard for me.  I still want to make it a big deal.  Erica bought some beautiful flowers.  I went up to the cemetery and sang happy birthday. We talked to our kids about mom.  I would have liked to have made it a bigger deal.

I would have liked to have brought home the ice-cream cake from Dairy Queen and have Pam blow out the candles.  Hold it… I think I will buy the cake and bring it home.  Most of the kids will be home on Sunday and perhaps we can all blow out the candles together and remember their mom and her birthday too.

Happy Birthday Pam!

A Grief Moment – 8 Years Later

Greiving-8-year-later-1024x662It was eight years later to the very date. His son had died from cancer and this was the anniversary of his death. He wanted me to pray for him and his family. And so I did.

The tears rolled down his eyes, even after eight years.  What I found even more significant was the fact that he wanted to share this date with an entire community. This reminded me of the importance of grieving together.

What did you say? Grieving. It’s been eight years… Some people would be telling him to get over it.  Others would say he needs counseling. Perhaps a few would say that he is experiencing unresolved grief.

His son died and he still misses him. What could be so wrong about that?

Eight years later, his heart was missing and loving and he wanted to let others know that it still hurts. What could be healthier than that acknowledgment?

Grief moments return. Let them. Share them with a community. Bring them to the fore. Know that grief moments are significant and healthy.

Did you ever have a grief moment return years later after a loved one died? What was it? And why was it important? Share a story to encourage others.