This Advent Letter to Those We’ve Lost is written by Bethany Suckrow to her mother, Tina, who died January 2, 2012, after a 14 year struggle with metastatic breast cancer. Her last day at home was Christmas Day, 2011, before she went into hospice care for the last week of her life.
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I have your Christmas cookie cutters, your dough mat and rolling pin, and your mixing bowls. Dad brought them to me because he’s been cleaning out the house, getting it ready to sell. This, if nothing else, is a reminder of how much has changed in our lives this year.
Dad remarried and moved into his wife’s house early this summer. A few months later, Jacob and Kayla tied the knot and bought a home of their own, which is where we’ll be staying for Christmas. It’s strange, this prospect of going to my hometown for the holidays without going to the home of my childhood. But I think this is the start of a new era. Your kids are talking about the traditions we want to create in our changing family. We’re finding ways to do for ourselves what you always did for us. I think you’d be proud.
What I remember about you at Christmastime is the way that you always forged a path to joy with festive rituals. There were so many years when hope seemed to elude us with crushing circumstances – bad diagnoses, bad financial circumstances. Another parent might have allowed the bad to ruin the good, to let the season fall apart with the sadness. I want you to know that although I do remember the difficult circumstances, I don’t remember a single bad Christmas. I remember those years for the beauty that you made of them, like a candle in the darkness. The traditions and the rituals were a means of survival for our family. Every cookie, every carol, every ornament was a good tiding, calling us to great joy. A joy that transcended our circumstances, even after your death.
I hang the ornaments on my tree, I bake your stuffed french toast, I play our favorite Christmas songs, and for a little while, everything is merry and bright. The grief is bittersweet but bearable. I feel like you’re near to me – a small miracle, considering just how often I feel as if I’m waiting for you, despite how hard I try to move forward with my life.
Truthfully, I’m not sure I’m ready to make your cookies on my own yet. For one thing, I have all your tools but I haven’t found the recipe. Also, without having kids around, I’m only making cookies for myself and that seems a little too decadent, even for me.
But I’ve surrounded myself with good tidings again this year – the ornaments, the tacky holiday tea towels, the Amy Grant Christmas carols. I’m basking in the joy of your memory. My heart is light. Thank you.
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Previous Advent Letters to Those We’ve Lost:
Sometimes It Seems Like I Am the Ghost in the Room by Rebecca Mast
Advent Letters to Those We’ve Lost
If you wonder why I’m running this Advent series of letters to those we’ve lost, you can find the answer HERE.
Also, we’ve completed the first season of the podcast, The Story of My Death. Caleb Wilde, Bryan Allain, and I recorded three different episodes in which we interview people who tell compelling, intimate stories about death. Caleb tries to give away a Hearse. Bryan tries to make us laugh. The episodes are funny, sad, poignant, brave, and heartwarming. You can check out the first season of episodes HERE.