Wednesday, November 15, 2017

'Tis Almost The Season: A journey of grief and healing

Today at the dental office where I work, I saw an elderly dementia patient clutching her little bag of freebies as if they were the greatest thing she ever received. Even when her daughter tried to take the bag from her, she held it closely because to her, they were her possessions. She may not have much left in her memories, but at that moment, those little dental "gifts" became the most important thing to her. A lump formed in my throat, and a few tears sprang to my eyes. How that reminded me of my mother.

I think back to this time last year when Mom was still living in her own home. When all of us tried to do our very best with making sure she ate, keeping up with doctor visits and being sure she wasn't alone very long. She may have lost many of her memories, but she had small routines that meant something to her. Cats to feed and care for, and a dog that she adored. She would pull her driver's license out of her purse and her health insurance card and read them over and over. She read the small love notes from my father time and again. Oh how we rolled our eyes when she would begin these routines, never realizing how important they were to her, and how in small ways, they were keeping her memory going.

It may have been one of the most difficult times in our family, but we had the strength to go through it. I often wonder now how we did, because thinking about it now makes me feel exhausted. But when we needed it, God supplied exactly enough of His mercy and grace to us all.

Now Mom is gone four months. How I miss those little nuances of hers.What I wouldn't give to hear the same stories once again. And now the season is upon us that bring memories of family and traditions.

Halloween was tough for me without Mom because it was a holiday she had enjoyed so much. And now with Thanksgiving a week away, I can't help but think that even though it wasn't my favorite holiday, it was one of hers. How Mom loved her kitchen! The fact that she'd begin baking days in advance, planning her usual feast, and having it all turn out perfectly. A few years ago, even with Alzheimer's, she managed somehow. But last year was different, and she allowed us to take her to a restaurant for the day. I like to think she still enjoyed herself with her family surrounding her because she smiled and beamed through the entire meal.

Today I was thinking about where I am at this moment. With colorful decorations soon to be everywhere, joyous songs and yearly traditions, I feel a bit blue. No, I won't ruin it for others, and I certainly can dig inside myself and find a little Christmas cheer, but I can tell I am not the same. I don't feel the need to make dozens of lists: of cookies, shopping, cleaning and planning. This year, time means more to me than ever. The time I will spend with my our children, my brother and family, and dear friends. This year, I want Christmas to be different. I will not over do my spending, for I will be more thoughtful now. There is no quota to meet, no amount more precious than a kind word to a loved one, giving of myself, and feeling thankful for all the blessings in our families.

And I must remember to be kind to myself. I lost two parents in the span of nine months. No, I may not feel like celebrating this holiday season. I may be quieter than usual, a little less festive. I may not put up every single decoration that I have from years past. And that is okay. I'm giving myself the gift of time too. Time to grieve and remember. Time to reflect. But mostly, I'm giving the gift of time to heal.

I hope that family understands where I am this year. That it is nothing against them. It's a process that will bring happiness and sadness; memories good and bad. But I hope they all realize how much I love them, and though I am changed, my heart can still hold all the love it's always had for them and even more.