Love provides and protects memories

by Craig on December 22, 2010

It was the last Christmas my mom would spend with us.

No pictures in this post. Most of the pictures from that Christmas are of her kids-  moms are always the ones behind the camera. No? Anyway. the pictures of my mom I have from that last Christmas are not the way I like to remember her.

The cancer had ravaged her body.

She ordered the doctors, “Just do what you need to. Just get this done.”

She knew what was coming.

She didn’t want it to arrive at Christmas.

She knew that some memories never fade.

She knew she was leaving.

She wasn’t sure yet where she was going.

But she was sure of this.

She would not leave a black cloud hanging over the future Christmasses of her family. Getting through one more Christmas wasn’t for her, it was never about her. Her everything was her kids. She needed to see us, together, smiling, hugging, laughing.

I know how hard it must have been to crease the lips into a smile, to even walk.

She would laugh as hard as she was able.

She would make us pancakes.

She would scold us.

She would make sure the gifts were separated first into everyone’s piles – and only then allow us to dig in.

She saw to it that the Christmas stockings were as full as ever, with all the things we’d had in them for years. We knew what would be there every Christmas: that box of thin mints, shampoo, a trinket or two, a gigantic apple.

The apple would always survive much longer than the thin mints.

Every Christmas, and this one too, she lit up when we lit up, she surveyed the scene and took in the moments. She organized and refereed, and was stage manager to the chaos – and she protected us from as much harm as she could.

I still have the bunny slippers she got me – almost 20 years old now, reinforced with duct tape on the bottom and extra cushion inside. It was the last present she would ever buy for me. She had help with shopping that year. Her teen-aged daughter would take care of most of it. But these slippers. These she bought on her own. Her second to last gift.

Her last one would be …

…that sister

who would now become mine to watch over

until I gave her away when I walked her down the aisle.

That was the greatest gift my mother ever gave me.

On that last Christmas day we focused on holiday – and not on her – that’s what she wanted. We knew she was ill, but not that she was dying. I look back at pictures now and can see the glimmer in her tired eyes, the glimmer of success.

The end would come like lighting. Mom was gone two weeks after that Christmas.

It would…

…well, many of you know what it does.

But she was determined to give this last gift,

a Christmas with memories and not shadows.

And now she’s not here.

But I’ll see you again mom.

That’s the greatest gift that God gave me,

He gave it to me, to present to you

The greatest comfort I have about you,

is that you accepted that gift before the end of this life

So I can say

not in the automatic way it sometimes gets said

about those no longer with us

but with certainty, and faith, and reality.

I can say,

because I know you still live,

I’ll see you again.

In God’s love.

Sharing my mom’s last Christmas today with Bonnie…

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymuss December 22, 2010 at 1:06 am

Craig, what a beautiful tribute to your mother’s selfless love!

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bill (cycleguy) December 22, 2010 at 4:17 am

Fantastic tribute to your mom Craig. My mom went to be with Jesus in 2004. While I was away, older, married and she another state away, i still miss picking up the phone and calling her on Christmas. but I KNOW I will see her again and that makes it easier to take. Blessings to you this Christmas Craig.

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Craig December 22, 2010 at 10:07 am

It has always made it easier Bill. Knowing she’s not gone – just away – like on a Cruise somewhere – and blissful – Blessings to you too Bill.

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Craig December 22, 2010 at 10:06 am

I’m learning that selfless love is how you spell mom. Wish I knew it long ago. Better late than never. Thank you A.

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Scott Wolf December 22, 2010 at 11:25 am

You about had me in tears on that one. I grew up in a divorced family. My family and I are not close. I learned this kind of love from my wife’s family. Thank you for writing this. It reminds me of my wife’s family members who have went on to heaven.

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Craig December 22, 2010 at 11:34 am

Want to know the funniest thing? Who could have planned it this way? At precisely the same time you were reading my stuff – I was reading yours – look at the times of our comments – it proves it!! Funny. Made me smile. Merry Christmas Scott.

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Scott Wolf December 22, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Merry Christmas Craig! I enjoy reading your stuff. Hope you have a great holiday season.

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B December 22, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Oh Craig! This was just lovely. Absolutely lovely.

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Craig December 22, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Thank you Bianca. That means the world to me. And every bit of credit for this goes to MaryAnne – my mom – and the God who created her, and in whose presence she now stands. Merry Christmas – and thank you for reading me.

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Shell December 22, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Such a beautiful gift that she gave you.

My mom’s mom passed away 5 days before Christmas when my mom was 15. The holidays have been about that since.

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Craig December 22, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Thank you Shell. You are right, the bunny slippers, and my sister, were not the last gifts she gave me, but also this final Christmas that would not bruise the rest, and finally the way she told me that she understood the way to heaven, before she left this earth. Merry “you can say things here anytime” Christmas

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Kim December 22, 2010 at 1:33 pm

This was just lovely. I love that you still have the slippers. I appreciated your comments last week. I feel the same about the last gifts my brother gave to my son. I will always keep those. Merry Christmas!

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Craig December 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Kim, I remember reading about Matthew – and how that touched my heart. Those last gifts – so special aren’t they. The slippers have held up very well for all the years – a Christmas miracle of sorts. God Bless you and yours Kim. Merry Christmas.

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Susan December 22, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Craig,your mother gave you another gift,too-to be able to take grief still painful to touch, wrap it in the softness of bunny slippers, and write such a gentle, loving tribute to her. Yes, you will surely be together again-that is the gift He gave us, and is waiting with her for those she loved so much. Our losses shape us in ways we don’t always understand, but you seem to grasp her gifts in the way she hoped you would. All good wishes&blessings…-s-

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Craig December 22, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Oh my. I never cease to be amazed at the things my readers say – “to take grief still painful to touch, wrap it in the softness of bunny slippers” – oh, wow. That is an amazing thought. Thank you so much for that. And every time I slip them on, I remember her, and the memories are soft and warm. I still love my bunny slippers.Thank you Susan. Thank you for reading me again, and thank you for this gift. I’m, tucking it

right here

riiiiiiiight there

in this heart.

Merry Christmas.

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Debbie December 23, 2010 at 1:52 am

I’m behind, but here . . .crying. I’m not sure how you managed to write this. Thank you. I’m so glad you had a mom like that Craig, for the gifts she gave you . . .especially the one of knowing where she was going, to be with Jesus. And Craig, just a tiny observation . . .I think your mom knew something else you’d need. She gave you “bunny” slippers. And you held on to them.
God bless your memories and protect your heart this Christmas and always.

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Mothers' Hideaway December 24, 2010 at 11:18 am

OMG This makes me want to cry and I can’t imagine what I would do if I knew this would be my last Christmas with my children. I am so glad to see that your mother made it such a great Christmas for you despite what she was going through. :HUG:

Merry Christmas.

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Joyce L Gibson December 25, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Craig, you’ve done it again. You’ve reached my heart with words tender and tough–tender as they uncover the poignant memories of loss and the sweeter-than-words memories kept alive in the bunny slippers— tough to share the dry-eyed certainty that you will see her again and bask in her love throughout eternity. Blessings to you for sharing.

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Craig December 25, 2010 at 10:22 pm

GJ you are a blessing and I know I’ve said this before, but thank you for believing in me.
God Bless.

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Bonnie Daniel Shelton December 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm

My eyes are misty. As a mom I am encouraged. As a person, I am encouraged. I am glad that He continually encourages you, and that you are never alone.

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Craig December 27, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Bonnie. Thank you for this. He does encourage me. In each day he’s pretty much the only one around me who really makes the effort. I’m usually a fan club of one. But you remind me, thank you, that I really know it’s never just one.

I have such respect for moms now, that just wasn’t there a few months ago. Times they are a changin’.

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Melissa December 28, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Craig, your beautiful words makes me ponder: we have the Kindest of fathers, One who gives us loving mothers, and One who gives our mothers and all of us the grace to love as He does.

My grandmother didn’t make it to Christmas…but like your mom, she rose up in strength near the end to give us all good gifts to hold and cherish…until we see her again. Her funeral was a celebration, bitter-sweet in that the empty she left draws me always closer to heaven.

Blessings of comfort, peace and love in this season!

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Craig December 28, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Melissa, thank you so much for reading. Your Grandma sounds terrific. Who knows, my mom, your grandma, they may know each other :) God Bless you.

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Glynn May 5, 2011 at 6:20 am

Beautiful post – and a beautiful tribute to you mom. I suspect she’s wishing you as Merry Christmas, too.

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Craig May 6, 2011 at 11:11 am

First, I’m sorry I’m so late responding to your comment, it’s been a horrendous couple of days – but Our Lord is good – he’s good. And my mom – she hearted Christmas – just the tradition part of it filled her – now she know all of it – whatever heaven is – it’s bliss – and knowledge – and love – She’s in a good good place. Thank you Glynn. And God Bless you!!!!

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messymarriage May 5, 2011 at 7:13 pm

I hope writing about her after all this time brings comfort to you. She must have been an incredible woman and mother. Thanks for sharing her story with all of us! By the way, I’m curious–how old were you when she passed?

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Craig May 6, 2011 at 11:16 am

First, I’m sorry I’m so late responding to your comment, it’s been a horrendous couple of days – but Our Lord is good – he’s good. And peace and comfort – I’ve had that for years – of course there was the missing of her – but once I finally got it – and that was a miracle all of it’s own – once I knew that she had accepted Our Lord as Savior – I knew I’d see her again – and that has left me comfort. I was single, and in Seminary, and going through a horrible break up, and about 30 when she left this earth. Thank you so much for your gracious words – thank you – and God Bless!!!

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Caroline May 5, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Beautiful. I love that you said in one of the above comments that “selfless is how you spell mom.” Selflessness is one of the biggest lessons God is teaching me through motherhood.

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Craig May 6, 2011 at 11:17 am

First, I’m sorry I’m so late responding to your comment Caroline, it’s been a horrendous couple of days – but Our Lord is good – he’s good. Oh and selfless IS how you spell mom. I know you get it – I get it a little – but not like you – a mom gets it. Thank you so much for your gracious words – thank you – and God Bless!!!

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