Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Ghost Of Christmas Past

MARLEY was dead: to begin with.
There is no doubt whatever about that.

~ Charles Dickens ~
A Christmas Carol

It happened as I was reading the blog caroling posts
. I was visited by The Ghost Of Christmas Past. The Christmas Carols conjured up the Ghost and its images of that 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 next visit will be from The Ghost Of Christmas Present in Part 2 of A Charles Dickens Christmas COG.

The original story was told December 2007.


Blogger Jacqi Stevens said...

There is no guarantee that memories will not be painful, but at least there is the hope that memories--or at least some aspect of them--may someday become healing.

I was not yet one of your readers when you originally posted this remembrance. Brand new to me, it splashes afresh in my direction some of that sense of pain that must have washed over you then. There's nothing that can be said to bring someone so significant in your life back in the same way as before. I know you've done what you could to attain some sense of resolution, and at this point, nothing more can be said...but I couldn't just read this glimpse into your soul's hurt and leave without saying anything!

When we research, we are in the business of archiving memories. It's those memories that can take on a soothing balm in the days after losses like this. I hope that soothing balm becomes present to you every time the calendar brings you back to that moment of loss.

Thank you so much for sharing.

December 22, 2011 at 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Dear Ms Maven,

It's such a terrible feeling when somebody you love dies - like the floor has fallen out from under you and there's no way to stop the plummeting. I empathize to the nth degree.

Please don't be angry with your cousin. She wouldn't have killed herself if she weren't in great inner pain. People depressed enough to take their own lives are convinced that they are worthless and that the world would be off better without them. They just want the pain and self loathing to stop. They don't think that their family will miss them, quite the contrary - they think the family will be relieved, and that's a large part of why they want to die. Evereyone wants to be loved, but if one feels completely unlovable, totally devoid of the hope of being loved in the future, and suffering terribly within, death is their answer. All else falls away and is useless to them.

It wasn't your family's fault and it wasn't your cousin's fault, either.

I hope the plummeting has subsided by now.

December 22, 2011 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Jacqi - It is very cathartic to remember that day and the Ghost of Christmas Past every year.

The Ghost of Christmas Present, which is part 2, has a connection with this post.

Welcome, as a new reader, it's good to see this tradition through your eyes.


December 22, 2011 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Thank you for your comment. My cousin killed herself because of physical pain which was the result of an automobile accident. I don't understand it, but I accept it.

Her choice of place, date, and knowledge of what her father was experiencing at that moment, I still do not accept.

Writing about my father's death all over again has always been very cathartic. Each year I am more accepting. -fM

December 22, 2011 at 3:14 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

Ms. Maven,
I see that it has been a few years since your Dad died but I know that the pain is always there. At least for me. My Mom died 13 years ago and there isn't a day that I don't miss her. I wish she were still here with us but I know that she is in a much better place and that we will see her again. It still hurts but I wouldn't want to be selfish and wish her back here to suffer. So, I try to get on with my life and be there for my son. But, in a perfect world I would love if she were still here with us.
I hope that you and your family are doing well and that things are getting better

January 5, 2012 at 3:05 PM  

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