Saturday, December 11, 2010
Maybe a Tough Read Today
My mom has always sent out Christmas letters each year, since the 1960s or maybe even earlier. I don't even send out Christmas cards. due to time constraints (and money) around here, and her letter, this year, reduced me to tears.
A man who's been in Grandma's shoes, losing a longtime beloved spouse, has asked frequently about my mom, and I've always flippantly responded, "She's fine," because she acts fine, and I wrongly assumed she was OK. This Christmas letter, from a usually very non-demonstrative woman, surprised me immensely, and heckfire, I've known her well for 56 years.
"I'm just kinda tired," she'd told me yesterday, she who is usually indefatigable.
I'll end this post further down with the letter, but those of you who've known my mom for decades, be forewarned, this is kinda sad.
My father was the one who was way less independent than my mother, she tended to him certainly, but they both had plenty of different outside interests to keep them from being clingy, or morose even. Grandma's nickname is Bay, his name was Ray, and for 58 years two very, very opinionated, strong-willed, driven and determined folks lived together, often disagreeing with each other, yet made it work wonderfully, in spite of differing opinions quite often.
Grandma is a little lost now, I suppose, and I'm super glad she lives here, where she can garden in her favorite nightgown, or spend time with sticky little great -grandchildren. She has a wonderful Bridge Group, and goes to a different (Methodist) church where she has her own set of friends. Our county's Senior Citizen Building looks like a country club and is very busily active. She loves it there and it's close by.
I told my teenage sons last night, "Let's haul manure for Grandma," which on normal radars may seem weird, but she and I are VERY much alike, and I know this'll make her very happy. Several truckloads dumped and simmering up in her gardens will be comforting and reassuring to her, this I know. She could care less about stuff, but she loves the earth, an organic gardener before it was cool, obviously my role model in so many areas.
I look at Jesse and Lena's beautiful Christmas picture, they're young and happy, and I grinned all day thinking 'bout that adorable son of theirs, Isaiah. Grandma's Christmas letter is a total contrast - but isn't that what life is all about?
Jesse had a tragic childhood, not adopted by me until he was 13 years old, all of his birth siblings have been challenging, yet he's pulled his handsome self up by his bootstraps and done very well. I adore him with all my heart and soul, he's a superb son who has blessed my life simply by his existence in it. Jesse also knew how proud Grandpa was of him, the only man in my children's life who's been so positive all along, so affirming.
Folks giddily plan weddings while other folks are staggering from betrayals and broken marriages, pregnant women bloom with happiness while infertile women long for a baby. There are intact families with two perfect children...and then there's us, for example. Snicker.
There are strong healthy people grappling with depression while terminal patients are oddly happy with each new word of hope from the doctors.
This world can be a very, very tough place...and a very happy, thrilling environment.
It's not about choice, other than the choices one can make about their own reaction during difficult times. Yeah, I gotta remember that. Me who can whine and carry on, throw hissy fits and curl up in a corner sniveling like a fool. Or sometimes be inordinately grateful that I've woken up at all.
Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free!
I followed the plan God laid for me.
I saw His face, I heard His call,
I took His hand and left it all...
I could not stay another day,
To love, to laugh, to work or play;
Tasks left undone must stay that way.
And if my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss...
Ah yes, these things I, too, shall miss.
My life’s been full, I’ve savored much;
Good times, good friends, a loved-one’s touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief -
Don’t shorten yours with undue grief.
Be not burdened with tears of sorrow,
Enjoy the sunshine of the morrow.
The above Irish Prayer says everything I think Raymond would share with us if he could.
So many cards, notes, emails and calls have brought back happy memories from friends, family and associates: going back to my childhood friends in Greenville, Methodist Youth Fellowship, mutual friends at Furman, Raymond performing his first wedding in his parents living room 60 years ago, notes from his former parishioners, business associates as he entered the business field, dancing partners from his ballroom dancing days, and many dear friends - both old ones and new ones.
As I have said before, we were truly blessed to have had 58 years together with so many friends and a supporting family.
The idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis just made Raymond weaker and weaker. He was never in pain. It is my everyday prayer that some medical student will observe his scarred and diseased lungs and be inspired and challenged to try to find a cure and to know why this disease develops.
I plan to stay here in Georgia with Cindy and the children. I have made friends here in my church and the Senior Center where I play bridge. Of course, I have lots of love and affection from all of the grandchildren. Who could ask for more?
Your condolences, shared memories of your association with Raymond, cards, and contributions to his charities of choice have given me tremendous comfort. I thank each of you for sharing with me in my grief.
P.S. This is not the usual Christmas letter, but the event of 10/25/10 (Raymond’s death) consumes me right now. However, have a truly blessed holiday with your family.