Shitty Christmas

Christmas was supposed to be great this year. My family (parents, and sisters with their families) were supposed to come to our house for five days to celebrate. Steve and I prepared the house, anything from adding more seating to our kitchen table, to bringing up the extra mattress from the basement into our office, so that my sister and brother-in-law could have a decent mattress to sleep on during their stay.

We even prepared by arranging to add an extra fridge to our that it could hold the 22 pound ham my mom bought, along with other things needed to feed 13 humans for five days. The fridge meant we needed a U-Haul to move it from our friend's garage to ours. And while we were at it, Steve figured we would stop and get 25 sheets of rigid foam insulation for our basement remodel.

On the Saturday before Christmas, the day everyone was to arrive, Steve and I got to the U-Haul store around 10:45a. Just as I got the truck started up, Steve's phone rang. "Why is your mom calling me?" he asked out-loud.


and then quiet....and a very serious face. 

I hate those calls. I've had plenty of them. I don't like them. I know what it means.

"Ryszard, just go to the hospital..."

My father told Steve that my mom fell in the driveway, hit her head, and had no pulse when the squad left with her.

I called my sister, who lived the closest to my parents, and told her to "drop everything, and go to the hospital."

Shaking and crying, my mind was spinning. I had no idea what was really happening. My father was panicked and frazzled.

But, I had hope. My father-in-law has flat-lined three times...certainly "no pulse" doesn't always mean death. Certainly she would be okay.

We were three hours from my parent's house, and we had just rented a damn U-Haul truck. Steve and I decided to finish our goal with the rental. We picked up the fridge then went to Home Depot for the pre-ordered insulation Steve made a day earlier.

While Steve was inside paying for the order, I sat in the cab of the truck, waiting. My sister called me. It has been 50 minutes since that first call my dad made to Steve. I knew she was at the hospital.

"Joanna, she's dead." That's about all she could get out...

Instant tears.

Is this really happening?

My sister recalled what happened when she got to the hospital...neighbors, back room, Chaplin, thinking, "this can't be good."

Steve was walking back to the truck, right as my sister was delivering the news. My hand was over my mouth, tears streaming down my face, and when I locked Steve's eyes I started to shake my head from side to side.

He knew, with no words spoken.

He got into the cab, and just sat there as I talked to my sister....

And that is how December 22 started for me and my family. My mom died in the driveway of her home, as she was loading the station wagon to come to my house for fucking Christmas. My dad found her. He found it curious that, after some time, there wasn't noise in and out of the house. He looked outside. He saw her lying on her back, behind the wagon. He instantly ran out and started CPR. It was probably a heart attack, a widow maker, a massive coronary, that took her away from us. When my dad ran to the neighbors for help, the story goes that as the neighbor came over, my mom was already blue. She was dead before my dad saw her...but, he tried. The squad took her away and "worked on her" because there is always hope...

Steve and I arrived at my parent's house around 6pm that night. My sisters and their families were already there. Lots of hugs. Lots of tears.

The next days were an absolute whirlwind. My parents had zero plans for death, so we had to start from ground zero. The very next day we met with the funeral home to plan her funeral. It was a long 2 hour meeting. We were exhausted.

For her prayers cards, we chose the Prayer of Serenity:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

"Accept the things I cannot change." I can't tell you how many times I have said this over the last number of weeks. It, actually, gives me peace.

Christmas Eve was full of tears. We ate pierogies, as is tradition, with mushroom filling that my mom made. Some of the last cooking of hers that we will taste. My aunt helped with the dinner, and for this we are grateful.

Christmas Day was spent at my sister's house. I barely remember the day.

My mother's showing was on the 26th.

My mother was buried on a cold December day. Ben was a pallbearer. That was special to me. My mom would have wanted all the grand-boys to do that. We entered into the church to Christmas carols. We stood in the back waiting for our time to walk down the aisle. The same aisle that Steve and I walked down our wedding day.

Those moments at the back of church, waiting, were very hard. Tears streaming down all our faces. We draped a white cloth over my mom's casket, and it was time to go. I held Cici's hand, Cici held my dad's hand, and the rest of the family was behind us. I saw a dear friend as we approached the front of the church. I peeled off and gave her a great hug. So touching.

The five grandkids brought up the gifts. The girls wore their Christmas dresses.
They didn't wear them on the 25th.
Never in my wildest dream would I think that I was buying that dress for my mom's funeral

The worst part of the funeral, for me, was after communion, during the final commendation, specifically the song of farewell. May the angels greet you, and lead you to paradise. This was very special to me...I'm a visual person, so all I could think of was my mom being lead to be greeted by her parents. They welcomed her with open arms. They certainly didn't have a shitty Christmas.


I'm doing okay. Work and kids are an excellent distraction. Honestly, it still, in some ways, feels like a dream. My faith has remained very strong during this time, and I'm not asking a lot of questions. Accept the things I cannot change. I'm prepared for the marathon that is called mourning. But, right now I am okay.

The kids are doing fine. They are resilient.

My dad is emotionally upset...more so then I ever thought he would be. Physically, he'll be fine. He is in good health, so he is very capable to manage the house on his own. They re-homed a German Shepherd this summer, Sammy. I think Sammy will be very good company for my dad.

The amount of love, support, kindness, concern, and generosity has been amazing. Truly. My mom was loved. I feel loved. Love, truly, is what makes the world go round.

Steve has been amazing through all this. He was supposed to fly out on the 26th, but called into the chief pilot and got bereavement. I wonder what percentage of phone calls come into that office with tears over the line? He has been there for me and the kids in an amazing way. When I am 10%, he picks up that 90%. I'm very blessed to be married to him.

I wonder when I'll fine Christmas joy again? I told Steve I want some metallic fake-as-hell-tree next year.

Here a couple pictures to share:
retirement....a short 3 years ago

carrots from the garden

Disney cruise

Puerto Rico (with my mother-in-law)

NYC 2017, to celebrate my sisters 40th

My mother's death is only a couple weeks old. But, in this short time, I've gain a lot of perspective on life.
- Don't sweat the small stuff.
- Always wanted to do something? DO IT!
- Show love. Be love.
- Take care of yourself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Love to all of you!


Post a Comment