Thursday, December 24, 2009
Christmas Eve 1999--In Memory of Mom
This will be a day of reflection for my family combined with joyous memories. My mother loved the Christmas season. The cards, some cookie baking, the parties and finding the just the right gifts for her beloved family. Perhaps it is oddly appropriate that cancer took her from us a decade ago on the eve of Christmas.
We Hughes kids were somehow clueless about her condition. Were we too wrapped up in our own lives? Mom had had surgery that June. She had returned from a trip to see Jeff and had stayed in Old Alexandria, Virginia, a place that she dearly loved.....against better judgement. The cancer had spread....most of it was removed.....but there was the long haul of chemo and bandaiding her daily life back together.
Always the courageous one.....the show must go on....she fought daily, keeping any pain and sorrow to herself. She pushed forward to graduations, family events, until she could not go further.
I should have known on her birthday, December 4. When I arrived her refrigerator had decided to stop working. Dealing with it was beyond her power. A fast call to an appliance dealer, purchasing one sight unseen, rattling off a credit card number was my simple fix. Once the new one was delivered, I took her out for her birthday lunch. A frustrating morning turned into a delightful afternoon...now a cherished memory.
Several days later she was admited to the hospital. We followed the progress....everything seemed okay......but as Mom would have it.....not wanting to spoil our holiday......the truth was kept from us.
She waited.....waited until the three of her kids could be with her....one coming from Maryland.....one finishing his last teaching day......one getting the holiday preparations finalized. We stood around her bedside on Christmas Eve, chatting of holidays past, laughing at the many funny times together. We were told that Mom would be moved up to another floor and that we could bring in a little tree and have our family carol sing-a-long there on Christmas Day. We kissed goodbye, Mom put on her walkman headset with her favorite carols playing and the three Hughes kids left to make "Christmas Day in the hospital together," a reality.
Several hours later the hospital called to say that Mom needed us. Three cars headed out from North Olmsted.....Ken and Jeff in one, Aric and Garrett in another, my husband and I in the third. Clueless....absolutely clueless.
As I was walking down the hallway towards the hospital room, Ken was walking back to meet me. "She's gone" was all he said. I replied, "Oh, they have moved her upstairs?" I was wrong and I was right.
A predominant theme running through the two memorial services was that Mom wanted to be home for Christmas. It was at her church in Lakewood that the minister's final comment was, "For those of us in the Christian faith, she was home for Christmas....her heavenly home."
In the months that followed, as I was packing up her belongings and getting her condo ready to sell, I found this little poem attached to a piece of art work hanging in Mom's living room. I have held it and it's message close all these years. It typifies her exuberance for life.
This Christmas Eve will find the three Hughes kids together at a Christmas service. Ken will be up on stage playing. Following the service, weather permitting, the congregation will be outside with candles singing Silent Night....at about the time Mom passed a decade ago. Will there be a dry Hughes eye? Probably not.
Written in Memory of Martha Jean Stark Hughes