MY FOREFINGER SLID UP the photo toward her face, circling repeatedly as if I could somehow reach into the image and connect with my mom.
It was Sunday afternoon and I was filing through a stash of old photos given to me by a sibling at a family holiday gathering the day prior. I’d never seen the photo taken nearly 29 years ago of Mom cradling my chunky newborn son on her lap. She was 60 then, younger than I am now. The two would eventually form a special bond, despite the geographical distance. When Caleb headed off to college, he would call his grandma occasionally. She shared about the lengthy conversations and I felt thankful. Those phone calls benefited both of them.
Now here I was sitting at my dining room table, caressing that photo, missing the two of them. Mom died in early January. Caleb will, weather permitting, fly into Minnesota later this week for a short stay. I last saw him in early January, shortly before his grandma passed; he couldn’t return for the funeral.
Sunday marked about a year since my final visit with Mom in her long-term care center. That anniversary date and the photo, along with Randy asking me if I was familiar with the song “The Christmas Shoes” (I was) prompted my emotions to swell into full-blown grief. He found the lyrics for me, then played the song about a young boy buying shoes for his dying mother on Christmas Eve. That did it. The lyrics penned by Eddie Carswell and Leonard Ahlstrom in the song released by NewSong in 2000 moved me to tears.
I sobbed, tears gushing down my cheeks. “I miss my mom,” I sputtered, the words emerging as my shoulders heaved in sorrow, my breath ragged. I miss her kindness, her smile, her gentle way. I miss baking gingersnap cookies for her, as I did each Christmas because they were her favorite. I miss hugging her and talking to her, even if she couldn’t respond as her health deteriorated. I miss the essence of her, simply being in her presence. I miss sharing with her about her grandchildren, including that baby boy she cuddled. I miss telling her about the next generation, my two grandchildren. I miss sharing about my latest writing projects. She was always my strongest supporter, happy to hear that I’d had another poem or short story published.
This will be my first Christmas without Mom. Those firsts can be tough. I recognize that I am not alone, that many of you have lost loved ones, too, within the past year. I’m sorry. Grief often has a way of erupting during the holidays when families come together, memories surface. Time softens the edges of grief, yet never fully erases it. And that’s OK. To grieve is to have loved.
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling