Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Christmas without Mom

I've been avoiding writing this post because - FEELINGS.

My mother died this past March.

I'm going to go ahead and tell you that I can't miss my mom of recent years very much at all. She had Alzheimer's for over 13 years and what became of her life was not fair or right.

I loved the sweet person she became though, just as much as the amazing person she used to be. And I missed them both this Christmas.

By 2011 this was pretty much Mom's life:

She could hardly read anymore and it took her a little while to figure out who we were. That she still did was a miracle.

I'm going to tell you something. I am really really good at capturing a moment. It's my best photography skill. These smiles of Mom's were fleeting and the light in her eyes blinked out in a flash.

But not when she was around my foster nephew Sean. The light stayed on and somehow she dug deep and remembered that looking at tiger books was their favorite thing to do together and that Sean is deaf and so she needed to sign. That she remembered even a few signs was awe inspiring.

By 2012, Mom's last Christmas, she had pretty much lost the ability to do anything for herself. She could no longer always feed herself and words rarely happened. It was debatable whether she knew us except for a few brief times.

But the light was still there if you kept your finger on the shutter.

Even if your finger wobbled a bit when you saw it.

And the love could still flow, no matter if it was mostly one way now.

It was still received.

But once again when Sean arrived the light switched on for much longer.

He showed such respect and equal value for her rabbit. We were glad of its comfort value but as someone who lives a mostly inner life too he understood it's true worth.

Again there was a tiger book.

And amazingly, again, there were signs.

Sean had always been very laid back at our family gatherings but, and this I didn't capture, he was really animated and so interested in the made up signs that Mom made for him.

It must have been interesting for Sean's support worker to try to interpret what she was saying because Mom had no real words. Just a deep rooted memory of love for an extended family member who brought joy to her life.

Baby Coop less than a month old!

Last year we exchanged craft gifts.

This year's gift exchange was different and you'll see why in a minute.

This year Karen didn't have to arrange a wheelchair taxi for Mom or leave early or care for her needs. But she didn't have the triumphant arrival of the guest of honor moment either.

This year was great, though we missed those who couldn't be there. Olivia describing her new doll house.

And eating a pumpkin whoopie pie!

Sean's support worker Collin told us that Sean's vision has improved a bit which is great!

A hug from foster dad Henry.

And dinner with foster mom Marcia.

Never a lack of food.

A triumphant cheesecake from my brother Jim as usual.

Cooper tried an olive.

Not so much.

But he did help Grandpa with his nose.

Less helpful with his eye.

It's for you.

A frog for a froggy.

So instead of exchanging names this year our remarkable sister Anne did something really special.

Over the years she lovingly saved everything that Mom handmade for her and her children and she had enough to give each one of us something special from Mom!

Sean smiled more this Christmas than ever before. I love this smile after Collin carefully explained with a tear in his eye that it had been made by Grandma.

Sean came to Mom's funeral in March to say goodbye and I think maybe this special gift from Anne was another gentle way for all of us to say good bye again. For us to remember not just the sweet little confused lady that we now knew for so long, but also the sharp, loving, talented lady she once was. Our real mother, not our charge.

For the younger ones who only knew and dearly loved the confused Grandma I hope looking around the room helped them see a fraction of what she could do in the prime of her life.

This we did. I think we can be proud.


  1. you can definitely be proud of the people you are as she was so very proud of all of her children. tho she may not have always knew who you where she knew that she was loved & cared for. I truly admire the family she & your dad raised. I love you all

  2. The picture where she is pointing at Sean's book looks like she has angel wings behind her. Beautiful!

  3. The tree angel also sits herself precariously upon some of our heads, sometimes.
    I do not remember taking Mom by the cheeks and face-hugging her.
    I will treasure a pink and purple snoopy dog Mom made for me when I was at E.P.B.C. as well as a Mennonite doll etc. that we have here. I still have another round of this to give to East and Westerners in Aug. too.

  4. Ruthe, I am in tears as I read this. Both of happiness and sadness. Melinda was truly an incredible woman and I'm so glad to have known her! Most of all I'm glad to have learned from her and through her.

    Anne, what an incredible gift! Melinda would have been thrilled to know there was enough to go around, but would have thought she had done nothing big or important lol. She was the most humble woman I've ever met.

    She was just awesome! Thanks for sharing this with us :-)