Monday, June 22, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Ghosts of Christmas past

This weekend -- after spending the past several weeks going through my book collection and hauling 25 liquor store cartons full to the Salvation Army to date -- I turned my attention to the smallest of our house's three bedrooms -- the one that was supposed to have been a nursery.

Among the junk & treasures in the closet, I found a stack of Christmas cards from 1998.  You know, the cards that were supposed to be brimming with messages of ecstatic congratulations about the baby girl that was supposed to have been born in November.  Of course, 1998 turned out to be probably the crappiest, most turbulent year of my life, made even more miserable by the death of my beloved grandfather in October. 

I hadn't looked at the cards in quite a while. I had only kept the ones that people had written personal messages in. I had sent my own cards extra-early that year with an explanatory letter to pre-empt any enquiries or congratulations about the baby, and thankfully, I didn't receive any of those. 

The vast majority of cards I received that year made absolutely no mention of the small pink elephant in the room in any way, shape or form.  (To be fair, some had, of course, already called or sent condolences back in August &/or again in October.)  Most of the cards containing messages simply relayed a few tidbits of family news and/or heartily wished us a merry Christmas (yeah, right) and happy 1999.

A few alluded in a general way to the sadness of the past year and wished better things for us in the new year:
  • From one of my oldest and dearest friends: "I'm so sorry for all the grief you have suffered in the past year. You have been in my prayers. I hope 1999 is a much better year for you!"
  • From a high school friend:  "Sorry that your year hasn't been the best and hope that '99 brings you everything you wish for."
  • From my sister's best friend since junior high days: "Although I know this time of year holds sorrowful memories, just remember what you did have and do have -- and remember how many people are thinking of you and wishing you well through the season and in 1999."
  • From my cousin's wife: "We know this has been a difficult year. Hope you find joy this season and the year to come. You both are always in our thoughts."
  • From an old friend (opening line of handwritten letter): "This is the toughest letter I've ever written -- I am so sorry. I can't even imagine what you've been through. You are in my thoughts." (Then she carries on blithely with news about her own family...!)
  • From Cousin/Neighbour's wife: "...We know what a difficult year you've had so we hope that the New Year will bring you many wonderful things." 
My great-aunt (my grandmother's sister -- whom I adored) mentioned the loss of my grandfather specifically, but was silent on the topic of the small pink elephant:
  • "Do hope you and family are able to remember all your past Christmases and the joy of them and of having your Grandfather so many years. Enjoy your togetherness, you are very blessed to have such a good family." 
In fact, the only person who directly mentioned our daughter was an old friend who rarely sends Christmas cards -- so I was doubly touched!: 
  • "I am so saddened to hear of the death of your daughter Katie. I cannot imagine how difficult this year has been for you. The two of you have been much in [husband] and my thoughts since I got your letter. I wish there were more we could do but we send our prayers and thoughts and wish you some peace this Christmas!" 
There were two other messages that I found deeply touching:
  • From my mother's cousin (who had recently lost his own young grandson):  "Remember the good times at Christmas so that peace and contentment may be with you. And know that others share your sorrow and would, if they could, take it from you." 
The message that got me most choked up was one from another of my mother's cousins -- one of my two godmothers. Its opening lines read:
  • "What a year you've had. You have a lot of courage and grace to get through everything the way you have. I'm proud of you!"
Thanks, Godmother. I was (and still am) kind of proud of me too.

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here      


  1. So sad and hard. I think often people don't realize that their lack of comment hurts more than if they just said the wrong thing. It's nice that you kept those cards - sometimes it's good to remember. Thinking of you!

  2. Those notes brought tears to my eyes (the good kind). I think about all the times I stayed silent when I didn't know what to say. Although there are definitely wrong things to say, remaining silent isn't the answer, either.

  3. Thank you for sharing these intimate expressions of sympathy during your darkest days. It helps reinforce to me that sidestepping is not healing and compassionately addressing is, if even in a small way.

    I'm proud of you :-)

  4. I'm so glad that you have those cards; something tangible to hold as you remember. I wish more people had addressed Katie directly, but still, to be held in so many people's hearts feels like the embodiment of the Christmas season.

  5. Okay, eyes tearing up here too. I'm so glad you're proud of you. You should be! The inspiration you are to so many here, as well as the example of simply living well (actually, there's nothing simple about it), of dealing with something horrific and coming through it scarred, never forgetting, but always graceful and thoughtful and very deservedly happy.

  6. Thank you for sharing such personal messages. Bittersweet, loving thoughts from family and friends during a very difficult year after the loss of Katie and your grandfather. It is a tough balance of figuring out what to say. Loved ones may want to acknowledge, but may not want to say too much and cause pain. I hold onto cards, too. They are a treasure when you find them again and hopefully feel their love.