For the first time in my life, this Christmas was not magical. One day I know I will be able to look back and see the magic that was there, but for right now, I’m taking it a day at a time.
Our mom died suddenly at the beginning of this month. It became real for me the moment her doctor – her neurologist – told us, “in medicine, it’s really hard to know for sure what the outcome is. Unfortunately, this is not one of those scenarios.” Mom was gone.
Before we spoke with him, I was still holding onto hope. Hope that she would wake up. Hope that her brain damage wasn’t as bad as they thought. I prayed aloud, “we need a miracle.” To which my sister responded with, “we already had our miracle.” She was right…
In October of 2006, our Mom went to a doctor’s appointment and didn’t come home. They had discovered an inoperable aneurism in the base of her skull that had likely been there since her competitive gymnastics days in middle and high school. The prognosis from her neurologist was bad: she was a ticking time bomb. At the age of 16, I thought I was going to lose my mom. The next day, I skipped school and went to First Friday Mass. I prayed this prognosis wouldn’t ring true.
That day, my prayers – and those of so many – were answered with hope. Against all odds, my mom’s aneurism was operable. Over the next several years, Mom fought to stay here with us. She underwent several “procedures” as we started to call them that implemented cutting edge technology. Sometimes these entailed going into her brain to fix something, sometimes just to look around and make sure all was how it should be. She hated it, but she endured it all to be our Mom- to stay here with us.
Being so close to what I thought was the end helped us me realize how short this life is. How we shouldn’t take each other for granted. Even as a moody teenager I worked hard to get along with my mom because I felt so blessed to have her regardless of our disagreements.
Over the next several years, we became closer than ever. She had always been my best friend, but with age I realized just how much I really admired the woman, mother, friend, and person she was.
On Christmas Day of 2010, I wrote in my journal:
Seriously having the best Christmas ever. It wasn’t about quantity, but about quality of gifts… I gave great gifts too!… Heard from all people in my life I wanted to… I am so happy. I feel beautiful. I feel loved & lucky. We have our health, each other & happiness. I want to bottle this feeling forever. Too quickly life escapes us. Holidays are meant for spending time with those we ❤ doing what we ❤ Eating, drinking, playing games & talking.
Looking back now, I realize three things: 1) I am so grateful that I have kept a journal. 2) I am so grateful I was able to see this beauty at that time. 3) Mom was the one who made Christmas magical & holidays enjoyable.
On Christmas Day this year, we each had a gift from Mom to open. Gifts she had already purchased and wrapped before December 1st. Simple gifts from Mom to each of us. It was magical. While we will no longer have the tangible to remind us of her love, I know Mom will continue to send us signs of her love in new ways as long as we are open to them.
Ya see, it wasn’t just Christmas that Mom made magical. She made each day magical because of the way she lived her life. She prioritized sitting, talking, and being with those she loved. She prioritized calling her loved ones and reaching out. She prioritized love. Mom lived every day like Christmas.