It was early in the morning of Dec. 8, 1996.
I was at Emory University Medical Center in Decatur, where I had been for a couple of days. As the sun was coming up, my mama finished this part of the race, and after a short battle with cancer she died.
We found out she had cancer on Labor Day. The doctor had indicated that she might have a year to live. Their estimate proved wrong. She took a bad turn around Thanksgiving, and at 70, her life on Earth was over.
Losing someone you love at Christmas is hell. You’re hurting while everyone around you is all cheery and bright. You don’t want to drag them down to where you are. Trying to climb up to where they are seems impossible.
It was hands-down the worst Christmas ever. I was there when Santa arrived for my daughter. Her mother and I were divorced, but she graciously allowed me to be there when Santa’s haul was about to be scattered around the room.
If the person you have lost made Christmas a special time, it is even harder.
There are people who gripe and moan about visiting their parents during the holiday season. If you have both of your parents, you are blessed. If you have just one of them, it should be a time for recognizing that this portion of life is temporary, and every day is worth appreciation.
If you whine and complain about time spent with your parents, you need a swift kick in the pants.
Over the years, I’ve had people invite me to their home for Christmas. Some have even made sure I had a present under the tree. They were wonderful surrogates, but nothing replaces the love and connection with those who gave you life.
It was 12 years later, and my only brother died of a brain tumor. His was a long goodbye as we watched his body and memory fail.
Interestingly, one of my favorite memories of him was the night we waited as Mama’s life ebbed away. We went to the store and got some chocolate chip cookies and milk. We reverted back to a place of comfort from childhood. They were just plain old cookies and milk, but they still stand out in my mind, along with the conversation that accompanied them.
I always thought we would grow old together, instead we just grew closer together.
Just because somebody in your family lived to be 100, it may not happen to you or someone close. Treasure every moment you have. Tuck it away in your box of memories and when they are gone.
The coronavirus has been a cruel thing. There are people who went to the doctor not feeling well and were never able to recover. There are families who lost someone they fully expected to be there this Christmas.
Willie Nelson is a prolific singer and songwriter. A lot of his contemporaries, like Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and Ray Price have died. Nelson recorded a song about loss that is one of the best I’ve ever heard. It goes like this.
“It’s not somethin’ you get over/ But it’s somethin’ you get through/ It’s not ours to be taken/ It’s a thing we get to do/ Life goes on and on/ And when it’s gone/ It lives in someone new/ It’s not somethin’ you get over/ But it’s somethin’ you get through/ Somethin’ you get through.”
You will get through it, I pray for God’s comfort for you this holiday season.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the weekend Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.