Monday, December 15, 2008

The Fuzziness

I don't remember much about Christmas 2000. I should. It should have been a joyous Christmas; one full of hope as we awaited the birth of our daughter. But joyous isn't a descriptor I would use for that holiday in that particular year. Fuzzy is the word that comes to mind. Then, and for many years after that, I took comfort in the fuzziness. The fuzziness helped me get through the days, the weeks, the years. But as the years progress, I struggle to push the fuzziness away, to seek clarity. To remember.

One of my few memories from that Christmas is sitting around my dining room table. In hindsight, when I think about that dinner, it reminds me of the scene from A Christmas Carol when Scrooge sees the foreshadowing of the death of Tiny Tim with the empty seat at the table; the crutches in the corner. There was an empty seat at our table that day. A seat where my mother should have been sitting. She died only two months earlier. We sat at that dinner table, me with my husband, my brother and his wife, and my dad and the empty chair next to him where his wife should have been sitting. On some level, I knew I would be there, in that moment- motherless. Over a year earlier when she was diagnosed with cancer, I immersed myself for days in research on the Internet. My future was right there for me to see in black and white...

...More people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. It has surpassed breast cancer as the leading category of cancer death in women...

...Overall, fewer than 10% of people with lung cancer are alive 5 years after diagnosis...

...lung cancer diagnosis at Stage 4 life expectancy is about 8 months or less than 1 year...

She.was.going.to.die. I think we all knew it although we never uttered it to each other. And we certainly didn't utter it to her, nor her to us. But that Christmas we all sat there, stunted emotionally in our grief, trying as best as we could to enjoy the holiday. Mostly, I remember the awkwardness. My dad had suggested that we try to put our grief on a shelf for the day, so we could enjoy the holiday. So that is what we attempted to do. But I couldn't help but put myself in my dad's shoes. I kept finding myself eyeing him thinking, What if it was me, sitting there, husband-less?

The only Christmas gift given or received that year that I remember was the ornament. In an attempt to provide us with a memento, my dad gave us Christmas ornaments with her picture in them. I'm sure on some level for him those ornaments were cathartic. I could picture him remembering her, browsing the aisles for the "right" ornament, sifting through all the photos of her picking the "right" one. I remember looking at it and thinking to myself, No. I can't do this now. I can't feel this now. We are supposed to be putting our emotions on the shelf for today. So after barely glancing at the ornament, I shoved it back in its box and I emotionally shut myself down and refused to internalize the meaning of the ornament. Every year since, I open that ornament and hang it on my tree and I'm back there, in that moment- that awkward moment.

When my mother was alive, she was the glue that held our family together. She was the person who, on occasion, diffused conflict among the volatile personalities within our family. She was the communication link for our family. Everything flowed through her and with her. That day we tried unsuccessfully to make the conversation easy but in my mind, it was like trying to shake a person's hand after someone had just ripped your arm off. There was nothing there to make that connection with each other. It was false and it was hard and it was raw and that day we all pretended everything was fine and it just...wasn't.

14 comments:

mammadawg.com said...

Oh Jen... I'm so sorry... I can't imagine how much you must miss her...

Wishing you strength, love - and lotsa warm hugs to bring you comfort when you get pulled back into that awkward moment...

DCD said...

Sometimes the fuzziness isn't so bad. I know the emotions that you speak of. I can't say things will get easier, but sometimes you find yourself not thinking of the pain of her loss. But rather of the joy she brought to you.

Thinking of you and sending warm wishes to you and your family.

Meredith said...

Jeez it's a little early for tears Jen. Wow, so well written...I can literally FEEL your sadness, if only a little. I'm sorry you lost your mom. And, I need to quit smoking.

Twenty-Something said...

Sometimes the fuzzies are so much better than the clarity that lets you remember.

I hope this year brings a much happier holiday!!

Ms Picket To You said...

oh.. jen.

that was a love letter. i'm so glad i got to read it but i'm so sorry you had to write it.

really really beautiful.
xoxo

Becca said...

((HUG))

For Myself said...

It's the "ornament blues" that I wrote about, not that long ago. Remember? What did you tell me that I thought was so comforting and....frankly... so brilliant?

Hold on. I'll go check.

Yup. That's what I thought. You're GRATEFUL that you feel things so deeply at this time of year, that you miss her so acutely. In a way, I suppose it's a privelidge to have access to those feelings, to have an annual reminder to linger with them, even if they pain us.

I loved this post. I really really did.

LilSass said...

This was a beautiful post. @ForMyself her words are spot-on!

I hope this season brings you some sort of emotional healing and warmth or comfort or joy amidst your sadness.

Erica said...

Jen, I am so sorry. I can feel your sadness here and your post brought me to tears.

Thinking of you and your family during this very difficult time.

Geri said...

Gosh so sorry for your loss. How terrible to lose your mother. You have my sympathies. I think it's good you're talking about and getting those sad feelings out.

Last Place Finisher said...

In my tradition, it's customary to say that when someone passes, the memory of that person shall become a blessing. I see that in your writing. The memory of your mother must be a blessing for all those who were fortunate enough to be graced by her life.

Nash's Mom said...

Wow. I could feel that one. I can't imagine what that must have been like and what it has been like to exist without mom. Just remember, no one can ever take away the memories.
xo

Carolyn...Online said...

Sigh. I'm so sorry Jen. I mean I know you're in a different place today then you were then. On that day. But still you had to live that day and for that I'm sorry.

Lori said...

I wish I could hug you. Totally crying right now. You are so graceful about it, and always have been. I am proud of you.