I think I love Christmas so much because it was my mother's favorite time of the year, in spite of all the hustle and bustle of the season. That’s when we were most likely to hear her giggle like a child and see the gleam of a scheme in her eye as she planned a very special present for someone. This would be my third Christmas without her but I always feel her presence with me during the holidays.
I knew this Christmas would be unlike any other when the month of December began with the death of my mother-in-law. She had been a second mother to me for over 30 years. How could I say goodbye to her, give my husband and daughters someone to lean on during this time of loss, and still make sure we all could experience any of the joy of the holidays?
My husband flew back home to Texas for a few days to help his sister deal with the details of his mother’s estate. I stayed home, trying to get things ready for Christmas. I usually make toffee and chocolate chip cookies to mail along with presents for extended family, but there wasn’t much time for that this year. Presents and decorations might seem frivolous in light of our loss, but I knew it was also important to maintain the traditions of the holidays. We would find comfort in these little things when it seemed everything in our world was changing.
One of the changes in our world was my daughter’s graduation from college. She had earned an Associates Degree from the local community college, then worked full time for a couple of years before going back to school for her Bachelor’s Degree and we had all been looking forward to that day, December 19th. We made plans to fly to Texas the day after her graduation to attend the memorial service for my mother-in-law on the 21st.
But the blizzard came first.
The snow started the evening of the 19th and continued through the night and all the next day and into the following night. We got a total of 24 inches on our deck. Graduation was cancelled. Fortunately, the roads were fairly well cleared so our daughter could drive home to join us for our flight to Texas on the 20th. Airport operations had been closed during the blizzard but resumed a few hours before our flight, which was only delayed by a half hour.
Our time in Texas was brief but full. It was wonderful to see family and friends we’ve seen too little of the past few years. My husband was the minister conducting his mother’s memorial service and his sister and her two daughters sang a couple of songs. I don’t know how they managed to pull it off, except for the knowledge that their mother would have expected nothing less from them. She would have loved the gathering at her house after the service, too, and somehow it felt like she was there with us in spirit.
The remainder of the holiday season after our trip to Texas was all too brief. For me, Christmas wasn’t really over until Sunday, January 4th. That’s when I was scheduled to sing a Christmas song at my church, something that has become a tradition for me. At least it was until I developed problems with my throat a couple of years ago.
I love Christmas music. But allergies took my soft voice with its limited range, down to almost nothing and made it hard to even sing along with carols during worship services. The past couple of years I’ve played a guitar solo or accompanied other singers. But this year, my throat was better. Not 100% yet, but enough to try a new song. This time I wouldn’t even have my guitar to hide behind, either, singing to piano accompaniment, instead.
Sunday morning I woke up with a scratchy throat, which made me even more nervous than usual. But it occurred to me that my mother-in-law never shied away from anything. And maybe this was a good way to wrap up the holidays and start a new year after all. Several throat lozenges later, here’s how it went…..