Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Not All Merry and Bright

I have anguished over writing this post. Jasia wrote about a family Christmas tragedy and so I too started to write about my Christmas tragedy. Cathartic I thought. Jasia, however, had a happy ending. Unfortunately, I do not and so if you would like to stop reading here, I will understand completely.

I hope this will explain the reason why I have not been as enthusiastic about Christmas memories as my fellow GeneaBloggers. Perhaps when you read this you will understand why the footnoteMaven has been so quiet. Not all family history is the way we would have written it if we were given a choice.

It was December 21. I left my office at lunch to pick up those last minute odds and ends. Small things for the children's stockings and some food favorites for Christmas dinner. The world at that time didn't walk around with a bluetooth in its ear, a cell phone in its purse or pocket, or in my case even an answering machine.

When I returned to my office a Sheriff's Deputy was waiting for me. I knew something was desperately wrong, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't speak. "You need to call your Mother," he said. "I'm very sorry."

The night before, my Father ("There'll Be No Hell For Dogs") had gone out in his front yard to listen to the neighborhood carolers and suffered a heart attack. The paramedics arrived, revived him and transported him to the hospital. My youngest Brother and my Mother went there with him. He was sitting up in bed and talking. He told my Brother he was fine, that he loved him, and that he should go home. My Brother left, my Mother stayed. My Mother was a cardiac intensive care nurse in the very unit my father was a patient, she would not leave him. Mom and Dad talked and decided to call the rest of us in the morning when Dad would be discharged.

Several hours later, during the early morning hours of December 21, my Father suffered a massive heart attack in the hospital and died.

My other Brother and I both lived in California. After speaking with my Mother we made arrangements and traveled to Florida. Going in the house was so difficult, Dad was everywhere. He had spent hours putting up the Christmas decorations, there were presents under the tree with his name on them, and his tools were sitting on his workbench in the garage, just where he had left them when he went out to listen to carolers.

Most of this time is a blur. I think the mind does that to make the memory of the pain less knife sharp. If only the family tragedy ended here, but it doesn't.

My Father's brothers arrived from Missouri for the funeral. They looked so much like Dad. It was a comfort and yet so visual a reminder that he was missing. During the funeral one of my Uncles stood next to me and held my hand, none of us knowing that at that very moment his pain was about to become immeasurable.

At that very moment, in Missouri, in my Uncle's backyard, his daughter, my cousin, was taking her own life. She left no note. The family has speculated for years on her reasons and her timing. My Uncle always believed she was murdered. The police reports were thorough and final, it was a suicide. The act of suicide is so selfish. Selfish and cruel.

As adults we know that not every Christmas is "Merry and Bright." Christmas memories are what you make of them. I have made some wonderful memories for my children and their children, I did it for them, for me, and for Dad. How he loved Christmas!

I work very hard for good memories, but every year at this time some memories of Christmas past slip into my conscious thoughts and they are still painful.


Blogger Terry Thornton said...

Maven, May you find some comfort from the words H. G. Spafford used in his inspiring old hymn, IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Terry Thornton

December 12, 2007 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Jasia said...

I feel your pain, fM. How very tragic a loss to endure at a time of year when everyone else seems to be merry. I'll never forget the funeral I attended on Christmas Eve. My mother's only sister also died on Dec. 21st and her funeral service was on Christmas Eve morning (the aunt who promised me my grandmother's pendant). It was very hard to get through her funeral Mass surrounded by the festively decorated church. It was even harder to shift gears and celebrate with a big dinner and gift opening that same evening, followed by Midnight Mass. Not a Christmas goes by that I don't remember Aunt Helen's funeral. I'm sure it's even harder on you. After all, it was both your father and cousin whose deaths are tied to Christmas.

Here's hoping this holiday will bring you many happy memories of your dad, the ones that make your smile the brightest.

December 12, 2007 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger Randy Seaver said...


Grief can last for a long time, can't it? Death doesn't take vacations, it seems - but it does rob us of happy memories.

You are doing the right thing for your family, and that is important. I hope you make more good memories this Christmas season.

Hugs -- Randy

December 12, 2007 at 5:49 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Thank you Terry, Jasia, and Randy.

There is comfort in the kind words and understanding of friends like you.

It was very difficult to go home and celebrate Christmas with my children. They were too young to really comprehend what had happened, but they expected Merry and Bright.

More good memories is the ticket! My Dad would have been first in line.

Hugs back at you all, I really feel much better for sharing the load.


December 12, 2007 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Chery Kinnick said...


By all means, share the load. We are here for each other, good times and bad times. The more human connection, the easier it is to accept all things that make up the whole of life. Here's hoping that the holidays bring you many treasured memories and new experiences, and overshadow the painful ones, even if only a bit.

December 12, 2007 at 7:31 PM  
Blogger Susan K said...

fM -- thank you for sharing with us. I offer you virtual hugs and whatever remote sense of permission a person from elsewhere who types in a comment box can offer to let the season be what it is and bring up what it does for you. Love and hope and blessings to you and yours.

December 12, 2007 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Bill West said...

I know how hard it is to lose
someone on a holiday. My Dad died
on Thanksgiving Day.

Let good memories of those who've
left you combine with the ones you are making now to bring you comfort.


December 12, 2007 at 11:01 PM  
Blogger Janice said...


Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us. You mentioned that your Dad loved Christmas, and you do indeed honor him by celebrating the season, and his life joyously.


December 13, 2007 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Thank you all for typing in that little comment box, and for sharing the load with me. I think I really needed to tell the story.

I am feeling so much better that I've actually put Christmas carols on full blast.

Now go try Blog Caroling, Ho, Ho, Ho!


December 13, 2007 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Thomas MacEntee said...

Dear fM:

I just want you to know, as you already do by the nine comments above me, that you are not alone. I feel a sense of "guilt" when I post about something maudlin, especially during a happpy season like Christmas.

as Randy says, death doesn't take a holiday, and I wrote about a similar topic right after Thanksgiving:

"Death amid a time of joy tells me that death is just a part of nature, it is part of what should be expected but is not always anticipated, it gives meaning to holidays and to life. If we had no sorrow, no loss, no death, we'd have no touchstones with which to measure our joy. Joy would be a constant, a flat line with no spikes and simply rendered a non-emotion."

Keep up the great posts, all of them, and feel free to unload at any time.

December 15, 2007 at 3:09 AM  
Blogger Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

John's aunt passed away last year on the 23rd and the funeral was delayed by the holiday. My father's funeral was delayed because of Easter in 2000. Losing someone at a holiday does put a cloud over future holidays. I hope your clouds occasionally part and thin over the years, letting the sun shine through.

December 16, 2007 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger DearMYRTLE said...

Sending ((((Hugs))) to you, fM, as Ol' Myrt here knows some of what you speak. Mom died last Christmas, and Dad 28 Sept.

There is the comfort of being able to tell their stories.

There is the comfort of memories.

But they are punctuated with the realization of the loss.

If it weren't for my faith in a loving God, and eternal life as families, I would be a crumpled mess.

Take care, dear friend, and GOD BLESS. Love, Myrt :)

December 17, 2007 at 2:34 AM  
Blogger Colleen said...

fM: {{{}}}} I don't know if these "brackets" are well-known internet "jargon" but in a trivia gaming forum I once partook in, those brackets stand for hugs. My mom died many years ago just a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, and I pretended for years that it was over. This year I didn't hate t-giving. To me that means healing has hit a much-needed peak.

With your blaring Christmas music, I hope your peak has hit, too. Sorry I hadn't commented before now; I'm getting caught up on posts!

December 24, 2007 at 8:52 AM  

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