As we did the year before, we wouldn’t let the kids come downstairs to see their Christmas presents until we were ready to see their surprised faces. Only this year, I didn’t capture much on camera. In years’ past, I had it rolling so that I could add it to their yearly birthday videos. There’s something about Christmas morning joy. But as kids get older their excitement of Santa dies down. Immediately I could tell that Santa had taken a little bit of a back seat. Which was actually what I had hoped. All these years Santa had gotten the credit for the big gifts. This year the “big” gift came from us with much more gratefulness from the kids and repeated thank yous and I love yous.
Christmas day was like all the others of the past. We open the stockings while warming up the oven for french toast casserole. Instead of tearing into our gifts while no one pays attention to anyone else opening their gifts, we do it differently here. We each take our time, and one person opens a gift at a time and we all sit and pay attention to make sure the gift giver and the receiver both feel appreciated. After all Christmas is all day, why rush through it in 15 minutes? It’s a nice slow process. Sometimes it lasts until 10 or 11 because we take a break and eat Scott’s delicious casserole that I dream about every year.
All was well. We had planned to Skype with grandparents later in the day and of course, my mother in law would call soon to ask what the kids got for Christmas as she does every year. Last year, she didn’t call because she was tired. This year, she decided not to call because of the same thing. We didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t unusual for her to put off calls for another time due to just being tired for her age.
The next morning my phone rang early somewhere between 6 and 7. I didn’t think much of it and ignored it thinking it was an accidental dialing until my husband’s phone rang directly after mine. The first thing I thought was that something had happened to my sister-in-law who has been recently diagnosed with bone cancer. Reading Scott’s face, I knew it was serious. The conversation was short and I remember feeling relieved that Shannon told Scott first instead of me first. I felt it was better that way.
The next thing I hear out of my husband’s mouth is, “My mom died.”
We got up in a panic rushing around as if we could do something to change it. But all we could do was let it sink in and wait for more phone calls. She lived in Arizona and we live in Colorado. So we couldn’t really rush to be with people.
My husband spent the majority of that day shocked rocking in the dark and much of the next day too.
When you realize you’ll never see someone again, never talk to them on the phone again that the present is changed from here on forward and there’s no going backward, it’s quite hard to comprehend. In fact, it’s emotionally crushing. Thoughts are filled with things never spoken, things never said, pondering all the what-ifs and whys, and if there was something you could have done to change the situation or situations in the past for better outcomes.
The sadness comes in waves. It hits in the dark and takes your breath away like it just happened and the engulfing gut-wrenching pain hits you all over again.
Sometimes you can laugh about a memory. Sometimes a fragrance brings you to instant tears.
Songs take on new meanings.
Memories flood your mind.
Darkness makes your mind run.
I thought of the kids and how not having her in their lives anymore would affect them. It’s been nearly a month and I know now with great assurance that what was left behind was a legacy of love for them. They never felt anything but love from her. There was nothing the boys could ever do wrong to disappoint her. She was a very loving grandma.
Now my relationship was a little more complicated with her. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out why I couldn’t just accept her quirky, loud, often silly and sometimes smothering personality. I mean she was interesting. How wonderful to be interesting enough to be remembered.
I think she gave me love without me ever asking for it, and it often seemed overbearing and mushy or gushy. She did exactly what Jesus would have done though. You can deny the love all you want, but it’s there waiting for you to accept it. I was perplexed by it, always waiting for the ball to drop. We had our arguments but when it came right down to the core of things, I think all she wanted was for me to feel the love from her as a mother and being wounded by my own mother I rejected that time and time again. It felt awkward and weird and smothering. I didn’t understand it.
Upon reading the things people wrote about her on her Facebook page, and upon making the video collage for her memorial service I grew to realize what you see on the surface in someone isn’t always who that person is to their core and it’s often not what others may see. Families are complicated. When someone dies you learn so much about their past. She didn’t have it easy a lot of the time.
I am saddened that she never got to come here to Colorado to see our new home and new stomping grounds. She was supposed to fly out here for Spring Break. I know the kids would have been so excited. I wanted her to see those majestic Rocky Mountains and to see all the lakes we have here. She dreamed of visiting John Denver’s sanctuary and she said, “when I come out there, you take me there okay!”
I hope she flew over them on her way to heaven. Regardless nothing is better than where she’s at right now. Rest in peace Veronica Jones.
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