Where I spray-paint my thoughts…



Last Christmas my mom and I had an argument over the phone about what she was going to bring to our house for dinner on Christmas Eve. Years ago, when I was a teenager, she and my dad established the tradition of inviting the extended family — which then consisted of my Uncle George and Aunt Bernice and their kids — over to our place for dinner on Christmas Eve, a dinner of which my dad’s lasagna was always the main dish. Then the next day my parents would cook a turkey dinner for the three of us and Aunt Gertie.

Sometime about the year Jason and I got married, my mom started to find this cooking-two-big-dinners-with-guests-two-days-in-a-row overwhelming, so Jason I took over hosting the Christmas Eve dinner at our house. My dad still made and brought the lasagna, and every year my mom and I would have this same argument, in which she offered to bring two or three side dishes, and I said no, the whole point of us hosting the dinner was to make less work for her and dad, so they could bring the lasagna and we’d provide everything else.

Last Christmas — probably about December 21 or 22 — she was on the phone with me enumerating the other things, in addition to lasagna, that she was planning to bring. I think she intended to bring potato salad (she made great potato salad) and a lime jello salad. I stood my ground, insisting that we could do all the side dishes. I vividly remember saying, “You know, someday you’re going to have to accept the fact that you and Dad are getting older, and you can take it easy and let us do more of the work!” (As I recall, we compromised on her bringing potato salad and us doing everything else).

And that day never came — my mom never got the years of being the elderly relative who was waited on by others. She was 78 when she died and, despite poor health, still determined to bring a pot of beans to every potluck (though she didn’t actually like potlucks and would rather have left the beans and gone on home out of it). Here’s one of my favourite pictures from that Christmas Eve dinner last year, where my mom is either telling a story or explaining something to Aunt Bernice.


At this point, obviously, there’s nothing I would like more in the world than to pick up the phone and have that same frustrating “you don’t have to do it all you know, I’m quite capable” argument with her again. Or any of our arguments, really. Or share a good laugh about the quirks and eccentricities of other people, which was something we always liked to bond over, and there are plenty of those to comment on this time of year. Or hear her tell a story in her usual animated style.

It’s such a trite truism to say that the first Christmas after a loved one dies is particularly hard, but I’m learning this year how true it is, even as we do our best to enjoy what we can enjoy in this season. One unexpected upside I’ve discovered is that in the first Christmas season after a major loss, expectations are beautifully low. Much of the stress of Christmas comes from people believing things have to be “just perfect” and fit some wonderful ideal in their heads. But the Christmas after you’ve said goodbye to someone you love, there are no expectations. Making it through is plenty good enough, so every happy moment, every laugh and smile, is an unexpected blessing. 

Have a merry-ish Christmas, especially if that’s the best you can manage this year.



10 thoughts on “Merry-ish

  1. I’m glad I can write this rather than speak; the lump in my throat is too great a barrier at this moment. But these are wonderful memories, and I treasure them. Family and friends help diminish the blue of this blue Christmas.

  2. Beautiful post Trudy. I want to say so much, but the words will just get in the way. My heart is with you as you navigate this “first”. May you sense your mom’s presence in every hug, every laugh, and every tear. Merry-ish Christmas to you.

  3. I’m so sorry that you have to go through this Christmas without your mom. Moms seem to hold Christmas together, somehow. I haven’t seen my mom in almost 2 years, and I get to see her this Christmas. I’m going to hug her extra tight.

  4. Last night, I attended a “Blue Christmas Healing Service” at my church. It was a place for people who aren’t finding Christmas joyful, for whatever reason. We sang all the wonderful, minor key hymns of sorrow and solace, sat silent amidst candles for much of the evening, rang a yoga-type chime periodically, and one by one, came forward to receive an anointing of oil and a blessing. I sobbed through the entire service.

    I don’t know that my comment is of any help, except perhaps a reminder that there are others (probably many of us) not feeling the Christmas joy and that faith and a faith community can be a solace.

    *hugs* (whether you want them or not!)

  5. Trudy – I’m still so sorry for your loss. I hope writing this was somehow therapeutic. She wasn’t my mom, but we are going through the same this year after my grandmother’s death two weeks ago. I, too, am relieved that the pressure is off for this Christmas. My mom is having a hard time now that the To Do List is shorter. Enjoy all you can this year and know you’re not going it alone.


  6. I too have a lump in my throat, because I have dealt with this every holiday in the 10 years since Mom passed. It still amazes me that what I miss most are the things that made me crazy when she was alive. But they were normal and the things that were the most ‘her’. I will be thinking of you and your family. And I can offer you this – time smooths the edges of the memory, so that eventually your mind can trace the memory without as much pain.

  7. Nicely put. A Merry Christmas to you


  8. perfectly said Trudy – memories are precious – they light the corners of our minds. hugs to you

  9. If sharing your pain lessened it, you would be having a whole lot less pain today. Love and hugs from our miserable house to yours

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