Monday, December 14, 2009

Not All Merry and Bright!

It happened last night. It started with the sound of carolers. I feel as if I can't breathe and the sound brings to mind a Christmas past. Not all family history is the way we would have written it if we were given a choice. We all know that from experience. This remembrance is of a Christmas tragedy, there is no happy ending; if you would like to stop reading here, I will understand completely.

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." I heard a loud and painful moan, and then realized it was coming from me.

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. She was obviously in pain, but this act of suicide was 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.

The original story was told December 2007.


Blogger Cyndi Beane Henry said...

I think all of us have a tragedy that is painfully brought up by one holiday or another. Mine is of my Grandmother passing from a terrible, terrible of agony with colon cancer on New Year's Day. I was only 15 at the time, but she had lived in the home with us for the ten years prior, and the pain was, as you said, knife sharp.
I believe we never "get over" that loss, and the holiday, whichever it be, only sharpens the memory each year. But we do attempt to make new memories. Sometimes we try doubly hard to make those memories more precious, to overshadow the painful ones of the past.
I am so happy for you that you have done just that! What a testament to your ancestors strength you are!
God Bless and Merry Christmas!

December 14, 2009 at 6:04 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

The pain of the past makes the joy of the present more exquisite. A lesson learned the hard way by many of us. Love and hugs to you, dear lady.

December 14, 2009 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger Greta Koehl said...

Please also accept a virtual hug from me. My husband's family went through one of these double tragedies a few years ago, and it just seemed cruel. All we can do is just try to be extra loving and forgiving with those we still have with us.

December 14, 2009 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger DearMYRTLE said...

Thinking of you, dear friend! As you know, my siblings and I experienced the loss of our father just a few months before, and were facing the upcoming 1st anniversary of our mom's death when your blogged about the shock of losing your father.

There isn't a day that goes by that we don't think of our loved ones, is there?

Christmas especially reminds us of the traditions they set for us. One way out of the grief is to continue the traditions with the younger generations, so all is not lost.

December 14, 2009 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger Lori H said...

I'm so sorry for this loss in your life, but grateful that you had such a wonderful father and that you have many happy memories of him. Hold onto those thoughts of those Christmas past.

December 15, 2009 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger myletterstoemily said...

may the Father of all mercies comfort you in your
loss this Chrismas.

December 19, 2009 at 1:13 PM  

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