Dealing With Holiday Sadness

When I pray, you answer me, you encourage me by giving me the strength I need.--Philippians  138:3
The silence was deafening. As I was looking around the living room, everything reminded me of my mom---the original mahogany dining room table, where we once ate dinner together as a family when I was younger, the lamp fixtures mom had picked out when she was around my age, and the beautiful tiled floors that they kept when they moved into this home back in the 1960's. I see mom's face in everything. When I came back into this home to care for both my parents, somehow the thought of losing them wasn't an option. I was in complete denial about death itself---at least for us---that only happened to other people. But, we are "other people." We are not immune to death. Both Madelene and I refurnished the home with our own updated version and style, so that my parents would be more comfortable. We put up a new entertainment area for them---a spot where my mom forbade a television set because she wanted the main living room to be for conversation only. She was pleasantly surprised how it opened up the beautiful living area. It was now "lived in" and not seen as "the un-lived living room." My dad and I would watch the Yankees game together. He used to always stay in his man cave---the den we had where he watched all of his programs. Now he could do it with us and relax on his new recliners comfortably. We held small Super Bowl parties, eating chicken wings and sharing a few drinks together. Dad and I would meet up in that living room and talk about the anxiety he was experiencing due to his illness. We never have such meaningful conversations before. I got to know him for the first time in my life.

Even looking out of the big floor-to-ceiling windows, overlooking the nearby lake and mountains, I can see Dad still sitting there, daydreaming as he stared out into the beautiful view. I can see 4th of July parties being held, and my mom bringing out huge trays of king crab legs and lobster tails, while my dad barbecued steaks, burgers and hot dogs. Everyone ate like kings. As I look over toward the small kitchen that my mom and grandmother used to cook in, I can still see mom sitting on a barstool frying up jumbo shrimp and yellow tail for the big Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes during Christmas Eve wearing her red sequenced sweater. Over on the counter would be chips and dips with plastic wine Chinet glasses stacked up, along with the large sturdy plastic plates. Christmas music would be blaring from every room. The house was beautifully decorated with lights and tinsel, and the tree perfectly was always perfectly set with lights of various colors. Mom always had this beautiful angel star that turned her head back and forth as if she was overseeing the entire room.

Walking into the little kitchen, I can see the pool area, where mom would make sandwiches and open up the window right from the kitchen so she could serve all of us as we swam and sunbathed all afternoon. The entire property is all mom and dad. BBQ's every Saturday, even if it was snowing. So many summer nights spent out on the patio having coffee and cake, while mom and dad smoked their cigarettes talking about the good old times.

And now, all I have are the good old times, as I replay them over and over in my head.

These memories aren't always positive ones. As I stare down the hallway, I can see mom and dad's room. I remember mom calling me, "Deb! Can you come inside please? Dad wants a kiss." As I walked in holding back tears, I stood near Dad's bed, where his body was shutting down from this awful disease. I kissed his forehead and said, "I love you, Dad," and with our lifelong humor we shared together, I whispered in his ear, "This is gonna cost you...I'm gonna pickpocket you on the way out." He gave a silent laugh---it was literally his last laugh of his life. I watched mom holding his hand, lying down on the bed with him sobbing. My sisters and I all surrounded him, hoping somehow, some way, a miracle would happen.

As I turn my head, I can see the bar area, where mom stood by brick wall divider as she held her arms out and said, "Come here, Debbie." We hugged so tightly, as if it was the last time I would ever see her. As she held onto me, she said, "I love you, Debbie." I replied, "I love you too, Mom," in almost a question-like response, as if to say, "What's wrong---why are you doing this?" I mean, I loved that my mom was hugging me and telling me she loved me, but it was close to midnight when she called me to come downstairs to do this. She then said, "I'm so worried about you." I tried to lighten up the mood and said, "I'm worried about me too!" And we both laughed. Then she looked at me, holding back tears and then said, "Call an ambulance." It was our very last hug. I look at that spot every single day as I make my way into the kitchen area.

As I turn my head toward the other side of the room, I can see weeks after this special moment my mother and I had together, watching myself as if I was having an outer body experience, throwing everything against the wall and crying hysterically---mourning---grieving---pleading with God to make it stop. I saw myself standing by the fireplace, scared and shaking because it was 10 below zero and I was all alone in a power outage in the dark. The fear, the dread, the anxiety, the pain, the grief had all taken the place of all the happiness and love once held in this beautiful home. I now have painful memories.

Christmas trees were put up only because Mom and Dad loved them so much. I can't seem to do that anymore. This old house, as beautiful as it is, with so many wonderful memories has become a torture chamber for me. As time goes on, there are more good times than not, but the loneliness, the emptiness of this home is literally killing me. We had planned on moving out before the winter of this year, but for whatever reason which I can't understand, we are still here. I'm dying inside, praying every morning for God to give me inner strength to get me through this. It's a big house for only two people. We are literally killing ourselves just to keep up with everything this house has to offer. Three living rooms, five bedrooms, two kitchens, four bathrooms and we need a new roof and siding. An old oil burner that's conking out every so often. Each maintenance call comes with a hefty fee. We have someone filling in an enormous pothole that literally turned into a large pond in our front driveway. We cannot receive packages from UPS anymore because they cannot get through the pond area. They now walk on the side of it now, realizing we are struggling to fix this.

All I can do right now is take care of myself. I pray daily. I stopped drinking. I am eating cleaner. I am sleeping again and trying to keep myself in a good state of mind, but it's tough. I never hear from my family anymore. It's like one day I had a big family and the next---gone. Nobody comes and visits me or even calls to say, "Hey, how you doing?" Nobody. It hurts. But I refuse to hold pity parties for myself because this isn't where it ends. God has seen me through the worst of times, and He is still guiding me to keep pressing on. I refuse to give up, even if I die trying.

Never give up. No matter how hard the holidays may haunt you---God has a plan for you. Trust Him.

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