My mom’s last Christmas was at home surrounded by family and friends. Everyone gathered around the living room to chatter and keep conversation light. My mom insisted she cooked a turkey and all its dressings. She sustained a light-hearted grin throughout the night which hid how weary she actually felt. After all, earlier that day in the grocery store she threw up at the cash register. And occasionally before dinner time, I could hear her cough from the kitchen, a cough so subtle and yet so vile that only the onset of death could cause it.
My mom was borderline Christmas obsessed. Every year, she adorned the whole house in twinkling lights and garland; she baked homemade gingerbread and sugar cookies virtually every weekend; and she made damn sure that we all gathered around the kitchen table every night to count how many days were left before Christmas on the Advent calendar. Most of all, what I remember is my mom’s Christmas village. She took a seemingly boring counter top in the living room and transform it into an idyllic Christmas fantasy land. She used fake snow that was essentially fluffy cotton as a base, and then she delicately placed these model buildings and houses on top of it. I’d sit by that village with some little toy dolls and play for hours, creating a storybook dream of Christmas in my imagination.
It’s funny, as a child it was often times difficult to understand how quickly my mom’s health was deteriorating. However, one moment that sticks out in my mind is when my mom and dad called me into the living room, and they told me, with my mom’s face sunken ever so slightly, that there would be no Christmas village in the living room that year. My mom simply could not muster the energy. I remember in that moment recognizing my mom’s mortality. That would be her last Christmas. The Christmas village has never been set up since.
The holidays are always tough for me because I had to learn at a young age that life is not a fairytale fantasy like my Christmas village.
The holidays were from that point forward always going to remind me of a loss I can never recover. My heart goes out to everyone this holiday season that has to be reminded of a loved one who has lost their life to breast cancer.
What are some memories during the holidays that you have about someone diagnosed with breast cancer?