BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE
CHRISTMAS 1998—A MEMORY EMBRACED
Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things. Cicero
The following prompt was e-mailed to members and friends of the Beanery Writers Group, which meets in Latrobe, Pennsylvania:
Recount your Yuletide memories, the sweet and yes, even the bitter. Laugh and cry as you reflect and think of the lessons learned from the good and not so good. Embrace those memories. Don’t run from them. For they all will serve you well.*
What is wrong with me? I, the one who is always early with the tree, the
lights, the Christmas cheer, cannot find any spirit this year. Strange, for it
is always me, who is first with the fun, and always the first person to say “hey, what’s wrong with you? Get your tree up!”
Always, by Thanksgiving, our family is well into the holiday season, for in truth, I was raised that it is a season, not just a day or week, to celebrate.
From my earliest childhood it was a season we celebrated, with dinners for
neighbors, walks in the snow, ice skating, and just spending time together.
Somehow I think that has been lost upon the current generation of young people.
It’s now December 13th. My mother is calling, again, to ask What is wrong
with me???? Why haven’t I put up the tree? I promise her I will truly do it
today. Much to my surprise I actually do it. She is in Yuma, Arizona and I’m on Cape Cod, so she wouldn’t know it if I didn’t do it, but then—somehow she always knows everything!!
The next morning I call her to tell her the tree is up and decorated. We
talk for about a half hour, general stuff, mostly about the holiday and what
her plans are.
<— Fran’s Mom
Later that evening I received a call that she had a gall bladder attack, and they were going to operate. Not to worry: she had a longtime gall bladder surgeon, one of the best. He ran tests, told us she was fine to have the laproscopic surgery. She came through it OK.
But perhaps in hindsight, we should have had a premonition when the doctor said he was stunned to pull out the gall bladder and discover one of the worst infections he had ever seen. He ordered extra antibiotics for her.
Twenty-four hours later she was released—her HMO only allotted that amount of time for the procedure—so she went home, even though she was too weak to walk across the floor without help. I called her that afternoon. She sounded quite good, cheerful and talked about the prime rib she planned to cook for Christmas. My sister was flying in to be with her and my stepfather for the holidays, and Mom promised to have her call.
Three hours later my sister called. She was concerned that Mom seemed quite tired, so I asked to speak to her. What I heard sent chills down my back: she could barely whisper, was so very, very, weak. I told my sister to call for an ambulance immediately—don’t wait—something was very wrong. She said she would talk to my stepfather about it. I called back to find that they decided to wait to see how Mom would do.
I headed off to the store. When I returned home my husband told me my sister had called—they had called an ambulance, but when it arrived my mother had no heart beat. The medics, who are required to try to restore a heartbeat, asked for her living will and the ambulance left. When my sister arrived at the hospital Mom was revived. She had massive septicemia and most of her organs were shutting down. Within two hours she was in a coma. The hospital staff told us she would live less than six hours, so I did not attempt to get a flight to Yuma (in truth, I could not afford the cost). It was now December 16.
Over the next five days the entire family (a large one) called her to say
their goodbyes. We waited, expecting it to happen quickly, but it’s not
something doctors can control. On December 21 I called Mom at 9:00 a.m. and told her we were all OK, she could move on. My sister put the phone to her ear and then she and I both told her we were OK. Thirty minutes later she quietly passed on. I was putting lights up in Cape Cod. My sister was in the chapel at the hospital.
I wanted desperately to take my tree and lights down that night. I truly
had to fight the urge to do exactly that, but Christmas from long ago kept
coming to mind. To my mother, to my family, it’s a season. You celebrate the season, so I did that for her. We all continue those traditions, in her honor and in her memory.
I hope for everyone this season of joy that you find a way to keep memories and traditions alive. They truly are what make us human.
Blessing and joy to all from my Mom:
Ruth Elizabeth Bromley Dean.
The things that were hardest to bear are sweetest to remember.
Seneca, a great Roman thinker.
*(Taken freely from a Colin McNickle editorial titled Christmas is… published December 19, 2010 in the Tribune Review. McNickle is the director of editorial pages at the newspaper.)
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ADDITIONAL CHRISTMAS READING: