Four years ago this October God blessed David and I with an anniversary gift, yet didn’t realize it at the time.
Four years ago we were planning our romantic anniversary getaway to our quiet honeymoon place on the lake, only to find there were no vacancies for the full month of October.
This had never happened to us after celebrating most of our wedding anniversaries here at our quaint bed and breakfast hideaway for two. We opted for an earlier stay in September, but thought it quite odd after twenty-two years of October reservations, there were no weekends available during this off-season for us.
Gifts come wrapped in paper that don’t always appear as gifts on first glance.
God’s anniversary gift to us that October weekend amazingly was keeping us home, though our hearts longed our special stay overlooking the lake.
David and I felt out of place being home that October weekend, and eerily, we both felt like something was terribly wrong, yet didn’t know what.
We went thru our day as usual but kept asking each other, “Do you sense God trying to get our attention but can’t figure out why?” We both nodded our yes.
By the end of the evening, God’s voice became too loud to ignore and panic immediately struck. David grabbed his keys and yelled, “Somethings wrong with mom, let’s go.”
Living one street over from our mother made getting to her in seconds. But she wasn’t answering our calls; the loud pounding on the front door or bedroom window either. Our fear level was rising.
Busting down the door should have been our next response, but we drove to my sister’s house for the keys instead, quite possibly wasting precious time.
Bombarding heaven in prayer while driving back to our mothers, we believed for the best while preparing our hearts for the absolute worst.
I couldn’t go in.
David stormed mother’s room to find her barely alive, but alive she still was.
An anniversary gift we didn’t expect.
God knew in advance our mother’s plight and His love for her kept us home that October when in years past, we would have been away celebrating our love and life together.
That weekend doctors confirmed our mother wouldn’t be coming home to the home she once knew, and hence, mother’s life would become a million packed boxes and an hourglass of descending grains of sands slowly keeping time for Our Long Good-by.
Good-by as a family with their mother began four years ago during the holiday season I journaled in the following blog.
After that first holiday season, my journal finds its place and returns to the final months of Our Long Good-by with mom.
ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU
By Lori A Alicea
Another holiday season is greeting front doors everywhere and gathering around Thanksgiving tables as done in Thanksgiving pasts will be families, friends and loved ones giving their heart-filled thanks for those seated beside them.
Families will share a meal over turkey, stuffing, candied yams, pumpkin pies and all the trimmings, and the bustle of life stops for a brief few hours when personal inventories are taken when you look around the crowded holiday room and remind yourself how blessed you truly are.
While a Hallmark Christmas card doesn’t quite paint the picture perfect family behind most front doors, mine included. The sentiment of the season though rises in the hearts of most who treasure family and its gatherings.
Holidays are also viewed though thru windows that peek into our family sadness when traditions change or grief and loss that overcomes with that empty seat at the dinner table for the first time this year.
For adults who remain “kids at heart” holding onto those family members who gave them their Norman Rockwell memories, it’s hard to turn the page to a new chapter of holiday traditions, when they cling to the old ones like a favorite teddy bear.
Holiday change is inevitable as our grandparents and parents age before us, passing the holiday torch to the next generation in their inability to keep the traditions going.
While this year isn’t a holiday first for our family, after finally disbursing the treasures of mother’s home though after being in storage for a year, the reality has finally sunk in that we as a family won’t be going “home” for Thanksgiving and Christmas anymore.
The face and heart behind our family Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions has had an address change needing twenty-four hour medical care, ending her reign as the author of our holiday picture albums.
As ‘tis the season of being thankful, this “kid at heart” takes ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU of “home” during her Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations past.
At mother’s house you are always welcome.
Whether friend, family or stranger; announced or unannounced, mother lit up when the door bell rang.
Her humble home, a single wide trailer shared with her husband Roger until he passed away a few years before she closed the doors for good, was “home” nevertheless.
Every room spelled m-o-m as her touch was in the details of her things.
Family meant everything to mother, whose love had no bounds.
She adopted her daughter’s best friend as her own who in turn called her mom.
This friend with small children through their years into adulthood, referred to our mother as grandma.
We adopted into our hearts this friend’s parents who we loved deeply and embraced as nanny and papa.
Because of love, our family tree bloomed and thrived enlarging hearts and family ties.
Mother raised her children to love and serve God, the foundation that gave our family hope during those storms of hard times.
But it was during the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas when going “home” re-opened the storybook of our childhood memories each year.
I still see dad watching the Macy’s Parade on TV in his recliner while mom prepared the turkey and all the fixins in the kitchen.
Like yesterday, I imagine the dinner table decorated and set in dad’s garage, seating all of us and our grandparents on both sides.
Growing up our Christmas tree wasn’t filled with expensive toys wrapped beneath it. With six children there wasn’t money enough for that; but there was so much more.
The traditions of a kitchen full of elves making various batches of homemade cookies with sprinkles landing everywhere.
There were those fifty-plus glittered Christmas cards we received in the mail and hung on a red chain down the railing of the stairs.
Sure can’t forget our church Christmas plays and getting that brown sack of miscellaneous nuts, fruits and holiday candy as you left the sanctuary.
Mother’s homemade coffee cake served warm on Christmas morning became a holiday favorite memory, a tradition I passed to my family.
The gift of Christmas around the tree with my four sisters, brother and parents was the best gift wrapped that day.
Thanksgiving and Christmas past replay in the back of my mind as this grown up kid enjoys the seasons of holidays when her children were small.
Holidays that replay in my mind with my adult children who now have children of their own.
Hearing the electric knife carving our holiday ham and turkey is the dinner bell reminder that a feast is about to be served.
For a family our size in a small single wide trailer, tables are set up in the kitchen, living room and bedrooms. There’s the senior table, the kid’s table and the table for everyone else. A bit crowded but you’re “home” and that’s all that matters.
So many faces to see during the holidays, some arriving when the military allows, or sadly arriving on Skype instead.
On Christmas Day there are all those presents to unwrap.
Then there are those hilarious relatives who never pay attention during gifts.
Can’t forget about that game of cards for anyone who dares to sit opposite a card-shark grandmother after dinner.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas though without that angel found sitting in her Lazyboy;
the centerpiece of our holidays.
Mother taught us how to make the holidays magical, and now our children are making the seasons bright in their own homes, all because our family matriarch had a special heart for Christmas.
Two years ago at this time, mother’s address changed as so did our holidays and traditions.
Holidays are now shared between the sisters with this year being at my house, and while we decorate, bake, serve the best feasts and still shuffle those cards after dinner, nothing comes close or compares to going “home” for the holidays.
Before handing over the keys of “home”, my heart needed ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU of mother’s house.
Walking through the halls you were deafened by its silence. The walls were eerie quiet with nothing to say, when before the decibel level was joyfully loud.
Aching over the empty rooms I couldn’t imagine life without our family there to enjoy them.
How I wanted to set out mother’s Christmas decorations just one more time.
We as a family grieve over the empty chairs of loved ones we once shared the holidays with, whose health or life with Christ keeps them away. We miss them so terribly.
Sadly, mother’s “home” is all packed up now and the front door has closed for the very last time.
Something shifts when the tradition torch is passed to the next generation.
The magic and the memories remain in your heart, but a shift takes place and has to make room for the new traditions beyond the Christmas present.
My heart overflows with thankfulness nevertheless this Thanksgiving season with the joy of the Lord, as He is the source of all my true hope and love.
I am thankful for my memories.
I look forward to new traditions and memories also.
I am a blessed woman.
This Thanksgiving I will once again take inventory of all my blessings and rejoice for the riches of heaven in my home.
I pray that my mother’s holiday legacy lives on in my brother and sister’s lives as well as mine passed to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren and beyond.
May we all be thankful for what God has done and is still doing in our life.
May we remember and hold close to our heart the true
REASON FOR THE SEASON
Which is Christ Jesus our Lord
Four years later…
The hourglass sands are still keeping time with Our Long Good-bye.
Mother is still with us four years later, but our days with mother changes as her health does, though she never complains.
Through these last four years mother has been able to attend our family events, which lit up a little girl’s day like a Christmas tree. The nursing home hairdresser has been overly kind to fix mother’s hair on his days off and the salon coordinated her nail polish with mother’s red hair and lipstick. Mother’s joy to “bust out” of those four walls for the day was evident in her smile, but we sensed the silence in bringing her back. Just recently mother was planning her health comeback to attend our Thanksgiving festivities. Yes, mom was all about the holidays.
Mother turned eighty years young this past July.
Mother wanted a party and a party she got.
A Princess for A Day Event
With the unusual circumstances of the year, mother had to enjoy watching her 80th celebration from the nursing home window. But mother didn’t care. Our Princess seated regally on her throne, watched from her front row seat the royal carpet rolled out before her.
It was a day like no other.
God gave us an unforgettable gift in Our Long Good-by; A Perfect Day.
Amazing how a few months can change from a perfect day to weeks of uncertainty.
Our Long Good-by finds us now keeping vigil by mother’s window.
The hourglass has nearly emptied its sands, signaling a close to Our Long Good-by.
Mother struggled to hear and carry on a faint conversation with us for as many days as she could. In the end we continued to hold our end of the conversation, trusting in some way she was keeping up on hers.
With this year of restrictions, we children and grandchildren felt cheated and robbed of holding our beloved’s hand during these last remaining moments with her on this earth while heaven prepared to receive their newest angel.
But we count it all joy and rejoice for her eighty years of a wonderful life well lived before us, not lamenting for what we wish her last days could be; instead remembering the perfect day we recently spent together on her birthday.
Our Long Good-by has been a gift many don’t receive before their loved one enters eternity.
We have been given four extra years to enjoy our mother, to appreciate and value her and tell her so while she was alive to receive our gratitude; not at a memorial service where our words come too late.
A year ago mother looked so beautiful at our 25th Wedding Anniversary; probably the best I’d ever seen.
On this anniversary day, God was still handing out anniversary gifts for Our Long Good-by.
Of all the pictures I have with mom, this has to be my favorite.
The gift of family is all mother ever wanted.
Thank you God for 80 wonderful years with our mother. She gave us life, our memories, and an introduction to your son Jesus for which we are most grateful, because we will spend eternity together in our saying “yes” to Him.
Yes, we will see her again.
Our Long Good-by is just a pause until Our Grand Hello in Heaven.
Until then, keep watch over us mother if there is a window to look thru in heaven.
I kinda doubt it as you will be much too busy walking the streets of gold with Jesus.
Give our sisters Belinda and Mary a hug. Tell them they only have you to themselves for a short time. Make sure you’re nice to Roger too.
Welcome Home Mom!
In your absence, this light I once planted under your nursing home window so you could think of us in your loneliness, is now planted in my small garden so I might think of you in mine.
No one knows when their hour will come… Ecclesiastes 9:12 NIV
Enjoy today filled to the rim with pure joy, without regrets and keeping short accounts with others, as the sun setting at dusk might be goodbye.