How do I get through the holidays?  Those awful birthdays, anniversaries, and special family
events that still come around every single year, even though you are gone, and they only tear
at the gaping hole in my soul.

How do I celebrate your birthday?  You aren't here and your birthday only reminds me with
daggers through my heart how much I miss you. Just thinking of your last birthday makes me
cry uncontrollably. How could I have known it was to be your last one? I can't even remember
what gift I gave to you. If I had known it was the last one, I'm sure I would have given you
something different, something better.

What do I do about Thanksgiving? How can I be thankful when your chair at this table is now
empty?  I remember all of the Thanksgiving dinners in years gone by and now they are so
meaningless to me.  Christmas is even harder.  How do I get through Christmas without buying
you a present to tell you how much you mean to me?  You were always such an important part
of my life.  How can I get through these days without a hug and a smile from you?

I don't even want to discuss Mother's Day. The ads on the television and in the newspapers
make me cry. I feel like I no longer have a mother, so how can I get through a Mother's Day?

I want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head and pretend these days no longer exist. I
want to take a calendar and a big black pen and cross out the special days that you and I can
no longer share.  Someone just wake me up when it's over. I don't want this awful reminder of
my loss and the emptiness I still feel in my heart without you.

But blacking out the days on the calendar won't make them go away. Curling up in the fetal
position with the covers over my head won't bring you back, or heal my heart, or make my loss
any easier to bear.

Selfishly, I decide to do something that will make me feel better. It won't bring you back, and it
won't cure all my hurt, but it does make me feel better. At least, a little.

During special days, I can't pretend you never existed. It hurts too much. So I pretend you are
still here. Even if only for a few minutes. At least long enough to march myself into the store
and browse through the greeting cards. I find one that says just exactly what I would want to
say to you if you were still here with me. Pretending you are here for just that long gives me
the strength and courage to try to find just the right card.

I write a special note to you inside the card, just like I always used to do. I even write, "I love
you Mom" inside and sign my name.  Then, I do something else that selfishly makes me feel
better. I cannot buy you a gift to go with this card, for even "Priority Express" doesn't deliver
mail where you are. Believe me, if they did I would wrap myself in a box and ship me there for
just one more hug from you. But since I cannot buy you a gift, I take out my checkbook and
write out a check in the same amount I would have spent on your gift if you were still here.

My heart is easily deceived and writing that check helps me to believe that I'm still doing
something special for you on these special days of the year. Maybe I am selfish. Maybe I need
this little bit of comfort to help me make it through the day. But these days, I'll take whatever
comfort I can find, selfish or not.

I lovingly put your card in the envelope, and then address the check and the envelope to
Hospice, who helped us care for you in such a special way during your last days. Sometimes I
address it to the American Cancer Society, in the hopes that this little bit put together with
someone else's little bit can help find a cure so no other Mom has to go through what you had
to go through.  Cancer is cruel.

This is only a small thing to help get through the special days, but I know you would approve,
and it helps ease the emptiness I feel inside.  I still miss you and I still hurt, but I try to
concentrate on all of the beautiful memories you left behind.  It's much easier than trying to
pretend they never happened.  So many women have never experienced the closeness and
the friendship that you and I shared all these years. I consider that to be God's greatest
blessing for me and I thank Him for that every day.

Grief isn't an event. It's a process that continues for a long time. It comes in waves. Sometimes
it ripples and sometimes it's a tidal wave. I've discovered it's much easier to go with the flow if I
can try to keep a positive attitude and not let it pull me into an undertow and drown me in my
sorrow. God's strength has helped me to do this.

The hardest day I ever experienced was the April 30th, one year after telling you goodbye. I
remember when I went to bed that evening and I began my prayer with, "Thank you Lord, for
helping me through this day, the first anniversary of Mom's death."

Before I could say anything else, His gentle words in my heart said, "No. Today is not the
anniversary of her death. It's her FIRST BIRTHDAY in Heaven."  Peace flooded my soul with
those words as I hadn't thought if it like that before. Yes, I even smiled, because I knew a
Heavenly Birthday Party must be awesome and I drifted off to sleep imagining the angels
singing, "Happy Birthday To You!"
Holiday Hell ~ A Letter to Mom
©  Ferna Lary Mills


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