I was thinking, once again, about my mom.
I know I have blogged about my mom and her Aunt Anna. This picture was actually in my mom's photo album from her childhood. I think my mom was high school age in this picture of her and Aunt Anna. The reason that I was thinking about this picture, is that my Aunt Anna died on December 14, 1956. I was just 2 years old. My mom always told the story of Aunt Anna getting sick, being in the hospital around Christmas. She always felt so sad that Aunt Anna had sent her home to be with me, and while she was gone, Aunt Anna died. The funeral was in St. Paul, Minnesota (which was quite a long drive from Watertown, South Dakota). My mom and dad left all of us kids at home (Jerry was in high school and I think that Karen was home from college for Christmas break) to go to the funeral. Remember that this woman was really my mom's mother. She was the only mother that my mom had known. When my mom and dad returned from the funeral, they had to "do Christmas". My mom had not done any shopping at all and she always said how very difficult it was that year. Aunt Anna had purchased a very special coo-coo clock for my mom and dad that year for their Christmas present. It was actually made in Germany, near the family's home. That coo-coo clock was one of my mom's most treasured possessions. For as many times as I heard my mom re-tell this story, I don't think I ever really appreciated it, until this year. I really didn't understand how hard it is to be so sad when everyone else is so excited and happy. In fact, when I was thinking about this, I remembered another day with my mom. It was a hot summer day in Minnesota. I was visiting my mom with Gwen and Doug (who were grade school aged). We got to talking about the "family burial plot" in a large cemetery right in downtown St. Paul. So we decided to drive there to visit that cemetery. Needless to say, this was before GPS and internet directions. My mom knew that it was in the shadow of the Minnesota Capitol. And she knew that the church was across the street. Off we went toward the Capitol. I drove around up and down several streets, and then we saw a sign for the Cemetery. It is one of those MASSIVE city cemeteries that covers blocks and blocks. As we drove into the cemetery, I saw a change come over my mom's face. It was as if suddenly, those funerals had just happened. I had no idea where to go, so I just started driving. My mom said, "go over there, by that fence.... no further up that hill..... yes....right there." I parked the car and my mom got out. She looked out over the fence at the steeple of the church and walked up the grassy hill. She stopped and looked down, and yes, there were the markers of all of her family that are buried there. I later realized just how surprising it was that we drove right up to this spot. It is a maze of twisting and turning roads that all look very similar. When I told my mom just how amazing this was, she said, "I will never forget standing by that fence, with the icy winter wind whipping my scarf and coat, during Aunt Anna's funeral. I was keeping my eyes on that church steeple, and also looking at my mom's grave (she is buried close to Aunt Anna) and thinking about seeing them in heaven one day." And just 8 months after Aunt Anna's funeral, my mom and dad would be back in that cemetery when my grandfather died. I saw my mom actually shed tears that day in the cemetery. Something that really never happened. She was usually very stoic and rarely cried. And I was thinking about that today.
This is me with my sisters and brothers that Christmas in 1956. Of course there was still Christmas in our house that year. But I am sure it was different for my mom. And I am sure it was very difficult for my grandfather (who had lost the sister who had rescued him and helped raise his children).
So, I put up our Christmas tree yesterday. And I placed all of those special ornaments on that tree. And I thought about Lucas, who is being lovingly cared for in heaven and missed so much here. My heart hurts and I feel helpless when I see the pain and emptiness in Doug and Susie's eyes. But, like my mom, I will look up and hold on to hope, and think about seeing them all in heaven one day. For now, that has to be enough.
Jesus, thank you for helping me connect the past to the present. You are my hope and my help during these times of great sadness. Holy Spirit, help all of us to celebrate the amazing gift of Jesus, during this holiday season. Comfort Susie and Doug as only you can, Holy Spirit. Help me keep my eyes on you, Jesus. Amen