In response to a friend who was grieving that the loss of his mother left a terrible gap in the experiences and joys of Christmas, I wrote this post and am sharing it in the hopes that it might help others:
“As painful as it is to have Christmas every year without your mom there, I’m thinking that she would want you to make new and beautiful memories as you go forward in life.”
My parents are both gone now and what you’ve said reminds me of one Christmas in particular. The Christmas I was thinking about was especially hard for me because my dad, who was only 66 years old, was in the hospital dying, but waiting desperately for the birth of his first grandchild—my son. My son was born on Christmas Eve in a different hospital, after my experiencing several days of hard labor, days in which my dad just plain stubbornly hung on to life in his hospital bed, hoping to live long enough to see the baby when I got out of mine.
We drove across town to see my dad at the hospital on our way home and brought the new baby up to his room in ICU—my husband ignoring all the nurses who said that a baby could not go in there— and my dad died about a week later. That new year was very difficult, but it also was a way to start things over in a new direction in which I was fully aware that my dad had lived a good life. Although we felt cheated that dad might have lived longer as a part of our lives, I knew that he had gotten his wish of seeing his grandchild.
My dad had been a baby when his own dad had died, and he had also missed the opportunity to see his own son, my brother, who was born prematurely and died pretty soon after birth. In those days—the 1950’s—if work moved you a couple thousand miles away to the west coast starting your new job, even if your wife went into labor, you just didn’t fly back home for it. My brother (who was born before me, so I never knew him either) died before my dad could get back home to see him.
My dad had not known his own dad nor had he seen his own son, so he was ever so eager to see my baby. I knew that seeing a grandchild come into the world was a very important way for my dad to see the continuity of his life. He was able to see the baby boy which was one thing that gave him joy and peace, as well as a sense of coming full-circle at the end of his life. Knowing that he had that sense at the end of his life was precious to me. I have shared that story and value with my children.
I really believe that you are helped moving into an unknown future to take with you all those things that are precious and special to form your future’s foundation. When you stand on those precious foundations, building on them your own future, you are taking the legacy of your past forward. The best of what our parents did was to bring forward the legacy of their own parents and blend it with their own experiences as they experienced and reacted to the changes of life. I believe that my own parents would would want me to experience a full and joyful life and that is what I wish for my own children, too. Mine were good parents, who prepared me to live life without them, which is their legacy.
What a kind way for them to have lived! And remembering them and cherishing those memories is a kind way for me to pass on their legacy!