2008: A Do-Over Year
It’s a little past Christmas now but my Mom has been on my mind a lot and I just felt that this was a good time to get all the feelings out on paper. It’s been almost three years (in March) since it all began. I would beg God to let us all do the past three years over, if we could, if it would help. If it would bring my loved ones back. My precious Mom died on March 4, 2008. Cause of death: a heart attack due to diabetes and she was “dead before she hit the ground” according to the mortician. It was a shock to us all. Mom had been physically ill most of her life and we knew that, we just expected her to endure it all and survive for at least another twenty years. After all, Grandma had diabetes and she lived to be almost ninety-five. Great-Grandma lived to be almost ninety-nine, so I feel cheated out of twenty-plus years of my Mom’s life. She was only sixty-eight.
My childhood wasn’t easy but Christmases were the best times of my life during my formative years. The memories of my childhood Christmases melt my heart and sting my mind all at the same time. They sting because Mom isn’t here anymore to keep that memory alive by creating the beauty of Christmas in her special way.
She isn’t here to cook and bake all day Christmas Eve and decorate cookies with ten different toppings in ten different Christmas shapes. She isn’t here to share with each of her five children a share of the literally fifty pounds of Christmas candy she and Grandma used to make!
She isn’t here to have us wake her and Dad up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. so that she would get up, turn all the lights on in the living room (including the tree lights), make the coffee and have all five of us kids stand in the kitchen until she was done. The agony of anticipation drove us nuts during that short span of about five minutes. It just seemed to go on forever! We couldn’t wait to run into the living room so we could see the one unopened present Santa left next to our stockings! Not only that, all the presents under the tree spilled halfway out into the middle of the living room floor and I used to believe we had more presents than any other kids we knew!
Mom isn’t here to set up a folding table in front of our living room door, full of finger foods and snacks that we got to munch on all day, after we ate the huge, fancy traditional Christmas meal she prepared for dinner at noon. She isn’t here to “ooooo” and “ahhhhh” over our handmade ornaments and refrigerator magnets from school that we made just for her.
I called Dad two days before Christmas in 2008 because I told him that if I waited until Christmas Day, I would be crying and I didn’t want to do that. He got a little lump in his throat when he said, “Yeah” in complete empathy. He has lost his beautiful wife after forty-two years of marriage.
Not only that, he lost his son on October 16, 2008. My brother committed suicide that day. He hung himself. That shocked us all, all over again. Not only had I lost my Mom and my brother, my step mom died after ten years of cancer on July 13, 2008! I didn’t know her well because I left home thirty-two years ago but I feel bad for my father because he was with her for twenty-seven of those years.
That’s not the end of it, my friends, unfortunately, that’s not the end of the tragedies that unimaginable year. My cousin hung himself (on December 2!) He didn’t realize my brother did the same thing just seven weeks earlier!
I don’t know the “whys” of all this death stuff that happened that year but it’s truly way more than I ever thought could happen to one family in the short span of nine months. I am not even sure it’s important to know the answers to all of it.
What I do know, what I believe, is that every single death is not in vain. Don’t get me wrong. None of us are glad that any of those people no longer live here. What I do know is that their lives have impacted us all. What I do know is their deaths have transformed our feelings, our thoughts and our choices. What I do know is that they are no longer suffering, each in their own way, each for different reasons. What I do know is that all of them live in a far better place than this Earth. What I believe is that because of their deaths, those left behind have become more aware of the fragility of our hearts and the blessings in our lives.
Let me speak for myself at this point. Over the years, I have done much work on my inner being. I have studied and read and practiced the art of forgiveness, the empowerment of patience, the depth of unconditional love. No, I am not perfect in all those areas but I have worked very hard at becoming better at them than I ever believed possible.
My studies and inner self-work have taught me that God has given us the gift of forgiveness and serenity and love on a daily basis. He doesn’t just give us His strength when we are going through traumatic times. They are inside us every single day of our lives and it is not just His strength, it is ours , for the taking. When He left his Holy Spirit with us over 2000 years ago, He empowered us with the gifts he bestowed on Jesus. He gave us the same gifts, the same Spirit, the same blessings, the same Wisdom, yet somehow in our fragility, we believe that we cannot be all that Jesus was. Why do we doubt? It says we were given all those things in the Bible, does it not? Why do we feel as if we are more “lowly” than the Son of God? We are all “sons of God.” I don’t mean to go all biblical and religious on this whole thing. All I am attempting to do is to awaken the truth in our hearts. We are all more empowered, more spiritually strong, more blessed, more “able” to achieve and to live out what famous author, Neale Donald Walsch, author of the "Conversations with God" book series, calls “the grandest version of the greatest vision we ever held about ourselves.”
My belief is that God is not a condemning God. He is not a judgmental God. He is All that there is, all that is Goodness and Righteous and Pure and Beautiful. We were made in His reflection - that makes us Good and Righteous and Pure and Beautiful. Who are we not to be? Who are we to be “lowly” just so we won’t “offend others?” Who are we to be “less than” so as not to appear “holier-than-thou” as they say?
My thought is that My Mom, my brother, my step mom and my cousin are all with us, every single day we live. They see us and hear us and watch over us just as much as God does. They are now able to be with each of us, even more so than when they lived here. In their Spirit-self, they have the ability to be all places at all times and to love us and see our goodness. When they lived here, they weren’t able to know our hearts as deeply as they do now. They weren’t able to see our innate goodness like they can now. They now understand why we have done what we have done, why we feel what we feel and they have more compassion and empathy, understanding and acceptance than they could have ever had on this Earth.
They have not died in vain. We remember their laughter, their goodness, their abilities, their strengths and their beauty, inside and out. In this time of great sorrow, tragic loss and emotional grief, my wish and prayer is that our awareness of beauty and empowerment and strength would grow stronger and deeper and more real with each passing day. I pray the same thing in the forgiveness and acceptance of ourselves, those we love and all humanity. God has not left us, nor forsaken us. Neither have they.
My love, my prayers and my deepest empathy and compassion are with you all. I love you forever.
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