Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another Tradition - "Not All Merry & Bright"

It happened last night as I was reading the blog caroling posts. The songs bring to mind a Christmas past. It has become another footnoteMaven tradition to post this remembrance. It is cathartic.

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 Thomas MacEntee said...

This story gets me every time, every year. Powerful and beautifully, if painfully, written in its truth.

Tragedy does not take a holiday, that I know all too well and I'm sure your other readers too. But without the dark periods in life, how could we truly appreciate the joyous memories of life that overshadows them?

December 14, 2010 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth O'Neal said...

Not all Christmas memories are happy. My mother died in July, and I still sob buckets for her at Christmas. It's hard, but so important to remember our loved ones and the wonderful holidays past that we've spent together.

I'm sending a bunch of hugs your way, and a virtual box of tissues. {{{HUGS}}}

December 14, 2010 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Love you both!

I am so fortunate to have great memories of my parents and to have written about them.

No time is ever a good time to lose a loved one.

Ironic, that the instigator of Blog Caroling goes to bits at the sound of a carol.

Elizabeth, pass that box of tissues; and hugs all around.


December 14, 2010 at 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Denise Levenick said...

Painful memories seem to come with the tinsel and trimmings at holiday time, but it feels worse when no one remembers. Every story helps keep those memories alive.

Hugs and good wishes for future happy memories.

December 14, 2010 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

This will be my first Christmas (Thanksgiving too) without my wonderful mother. Her death was expected though. However, ten years ago I too lost my Dad to a heart attack. It was sudden and brutal. All I have to do is think about that day a few minutes and I am in tears (as now, reading your post). My condolences and hugs to you and may you have a joyous Christmas even so!

December 14, 2010 at 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

Beautifully and simply written, it is a remembrance of your father and cousin. I feel your pain. We too lost my father at Christmas time.

Hugs and best wishes.

December 14, 2010 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

I'll take a box of tissue as well, thank you.

Powerfully done fM.

Hugs and some of that fairy dust I like to shake around on those in need of a little.

December 14, 2010 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger TCasteel said...

We lost a young child in our neighborhood on Christmas eve a couple years ago. A memorial is still there.. we think of him and his family year round but especially now.
Sending you hugs and Christmas love,

December 14, 2010 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Thank you to each and every one of you for reading and thank you to those who commented and shared.

This is a very selfish post, but remembering is good, Denise. Once this is up I really feel I have the strength to remember the good times.

Dad and his fudge. His struggle with the Christmas lights. My mother wanting to know if he was going to light the old Edsel parked in the backyard. The one with weeds for passengers.I loved him so.

I know each and every one of us has lost someone we love. Thank you for indulging me.

And could someone please pass that box of tissues back to me.


December 14, 2010 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger Lori H said...

My parents would have been married 59 years today. Pancreatic cancer took my father on the day before my birthday, almost 18 years ago. His birthday is two days after my anniversary. So, thoughts of my daddy are near on every special day in my life. But, I am thankful for all the days I shared with him and that I had such a special daddy for the years that I had him. Not everyone can say they were that blessed. Thank you for sharing your story.

December 14, 2010 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger Linda Hughes Hiser said...

Somehow I always push my own mother's death on Christmas Eve 1999 on the back burner each and every holiday....it is too painful to remember. She was such a Christmas oriented individual. There is a story to that particular Christmas Eve and perhaps I will write it; however even after 10 years plus, it is still painful. Thank you for sharing your personal tragedy.

December 14, 2010 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Dorene from Ohio said...

I loved hearing about the Edsel in the back yard! You were very brave to such a touching holiday story.
You are a wonderful writer indeed!

December 14, 2010 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger FranE said...

Thank you for sharing. I can identify with your story. We lost the Hero two days before Christmas.

December 14, 2010 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Greta Koehl said...

Reading about your dad and the Edsel in the back yard makes me smile and think of my own dad (who bought our wonderful Edsel and always had one or two "yard cars"). This reminds me to remember all family, both long passed away and recently gone, and to say a prayer for all my traveling family. Thank you for an excellent and beautifully written reminder.

December 14, 2010 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

I want you all to know how much I appreciate each and everyone of you.

These are such difficult stories to share. It make me smile to talk about the old Edsel and to know several of you know EXACTLY what I mean.

Family is everything.

This has turned into a two tissue box post.


December 14, 2010 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger Linda McCauley said...

I've always known that the time surrounding my father's death (also unexpected and heart related) is still a blur to me 10 years later. I hadn't thought about that being by design to make the memory of the pain less sharp. Now it makes perfect sense that I can't get it all in focus. Thanks.

December 14, 2010 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

It's never easy to unexpectedly lose someone we love so much (I missed seeing my father one last time after his 2nd or 3rd heart attack. I was 8 months pregnant and my mother said wait till we and see what happens.) but I think it's especially hard at Christmas.

I just posted a death certificate and obituary for my great-grandfather who died several days before Christmas. I was musing on how difficult that would have been for his single daughter and the rest of the family. This post tells me how difficult it was.

I know it helps that you have so many wonderful memories of your father. Blessings to you.

December 15, 2010 at 4:37 PM  

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