My family never talked much about deceased relatives around the holidays.
That changed in 1980 when my mother died.
Christmas 1980 was not a particularly happy occasion for us. I flew back home from Oregon where I attending graduate school. My father, my sisters, and I tried to cook a turkey for Christmas, a task our mother had always handled. Our efforts were somewhat less than successful. We exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve somewhat joylessly. We all felt empty.
We visited Mom’s grave and I saw her headstone for the first time. My sister had selected an epitaph that was simple and sweet:
Sorrow is not forever. Love is.
Mom had been buried in a new section of Our Lady of Angels Cemetery and the area bore the signs of the recently deceased. Many of the graves still bore no headstone. The earth above the many of the graves was still rough, not having had enough time to settle into a level field of grass. The tracks of the bereaved criss-crossed in the light dusting of snow, revealing that nearly every grave in the section had been visited in the few days previous.
For years afterward, it was hard for me to return to our family home without seeing persistent signs of Mom’s presence in the house and in the garden.
And, now, more than 27 years after Mom’s death, our family is selling the house. The sale should close around Christmas.
Written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Day 20.
Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko