My mom died Christmas Eve. Heart attack. Quite unexpected. We thought we had plenty of time left.
Christmas Eve was always a special time for us. She made it special. When my parents were still together, after church on Christmas Eve, we’d drop mom off at home - she had a headache - and dad and us kids would drive around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights. When we got home, we’d see that Santa had come. Ours was a family that stayed up way past bedtime, going through our stockings and opening presents Christmas Eve.
Later, once my parents divorced, and money was tight, she always found creative ways to make sure we had gifts under the tree. There were decoys, wrapping small things in giant boxes, the delight in unwrapping just as important as the object itself.
And when my brother and I moved out, still she’d put up the tree, and the wreaths, and the nutcrackers, and the little village. She’d decorate the whole house for us to enjoy for just a few hours.
And on the years that she was too depressed or too tired to decorate, her friends came over and helped her. Because they knew what it meant to her, to give that to us.
And of course our relationship was far more complicated that these Christmas Eve vignettes allow. I suppose most mother-daughter relationships are. And I thought we had plenty of time to work it all out.
It’s a strange trick of grief that in the days following her death, all I could see was the love. No petty grievances. No chilly silences. No ill-constructed boundaries. Only the love.
And it feels strange rolling into this new year without her. For over 40 years, she’s been my safe space to land.