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My View: Facing the holidays after a sad loss can be difficult

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The holidays are coming. For many, this time of year is eagerly anticipated and filled with joy. For others, it’s a mixed bag. I know Christmas will be like that for me this year.

Beth Lasky

Beth Lasky

That’s because in January, my mother passed away, a week shy of her 90th birthday. While I miss her, the first half of this year was less painful than I thought. But it’s getting harder as time goes on. It has taken this long to truly comprehend that I’ll never see, help, call or hear her voice again.

Losing a mom is a gut punch that digs in over time. I was her sole caretaker and didn’t realize how much time and energy I invested in meeting her needs and keeping her happy. Turns out, it’s the best investment I ever made.

I’ll never forget her final Christmas. While she was weaker, I was still able to have her over for dinner on Christmas Eve with walker in tow. What I hoped would be a perfect night, started out as a disaster.

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Mom was belligerent. I think she was determined to assert her independence, which had been slipping away as she transitioned through every level of senior living. She was down to a room in memory care. She kept arguing with me that night. My daughter was in bed sick, and I was frantically trying to help, cook and wrap. When I looked up, Mom was trying to wash her hair with her head upside down in the kitchen sink! It was an ambulance call waiting to happen.

After I carefully dried and styled her hair, she looked in the mirror and proclaimed she didn’t like it. She also told me the meal I prepared from scratch – her favorite – was “just OK.” For a sweet gentle lady, this was so unlike her, but I was determined to get her to church.

When I dropped her at the church door with her walker, I asked her to please wait for me to park so I could help with the touchy elevator. But she barged ahead and got stuck. After an embarrassing rescue, we found spots in the second pew. I was so angry, it was hard to focus on why we were there. But Mom knew.

My mother’s life was focused on faith, family and friends, in that order. Faith was her most cherished possession. She was involved with music ministry her entire life, a talent and passion she passed on to me. The candlelight Christmas Eve service was her favorite.

As I sat there with my jaw clenched, she started singing. For weeks, her voice had been barely audible. But that night, it rang out clear as a bell. I was stunned into silence and simply listened as she sang those beloved hymns. I had tears streaming down my face listening to her sing the harmony to “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger.” In my heart, I knew it was the last time she would sit next to me in church.

When we filed out, she told the minister that was the best service and sermon she had ever heard. That service meant everything to her – and to me. I’m so proud that I got her there. One week later, she was in the hospital and never came home.

The holidays will be tough this year, but I can look back with gratitude on mom’s final Christmas Eve. That night was a gift, a memory I’ll hold close as I continue my journey through this difficult year of firsts.

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