Christmas… and heaven… and Mama… and joy

Dear Mama,

Tis the season to be jolly, and happy, and giddy, and reverent, and still.  And thankful.  Thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ that makes the missing you bearable, at least mostly.  Because I understand why you were here, and what your life was about, and where you are now, and that you’re happy there, just like you were happy here.  What is heaven like at Christmas time?  Probably beautiful like every day, in a place with no pain.  Sometimes I wish I could spend the night with you.  Just one night in a place with no pain, and you telling me I am strong enough.  That resolute stare of yours, boring right through my eyes and deep into the place where no one is allowed, telling me “you can. and you will. because you’re strong.” Just like you did the day I put you back on a plane after watching our oldest two children, tiny at the time of their daddy’s kidney transplant.  I stood there in the Detroit airport, with my husband still in the hospital and my three year old in my arms, and told you that I couldn’t do it, as I fought back the tears that would never stop if I couldn’t hold it together.  You stared me straight in the eyes, and squared your shoulders, and told me those words, and that has given me strength ever since.  And maybe this is why I miss you the most when I’m hurting the most, because some days I feel as weak as I did that day.  But I can’t spend the night, and hear you tell me what I need to hear from only my Mama.

Because that isn’t how this works.

So I stay in this wonderful life I’ve been given, with a broken body, and thank God for a husband who holds me until the tears of too much pain for too many years, slowly fade away into calm sleep.  I suppose one night of no pain and a Mama again would make it harder to come back anyway.

As I write this morning, I’m sitting on my bed, icing and heating as I always do.  My Nathan has come in and plopped down in front of me, at the foot of my bed, sitting on the footboard and is playing his guitar for me, reminding me why life is worth living and of all the joys we have here.

Nathan jammin on my bed

Nathan jammin on my bed

So many joys

Like grand babies, and mint chocolate candy canes, and daisies.  Did I mention grand babies?  Aren’t they adorable?  You got to meet Bentley, and play with him, when you visited two summers back.  And maybe you met Hudson, as the two of you traded places just a few months ago…maybe you breathed some of your happy into him as he passed you by, because he is a gentle, happy little guy… always smiling.  It’s a nice thought anyway.

Hudson Dean and Bentley B

Hudson Dean and Bentley B


During this Christmas time, I imagine you watching attentively over daddy, who must be terribly lonely for you during his first Christmas without you in fifty years.  I imagine you checking in on each of us during the Holiday Season that is different than any we have ever had, because this year we don’t get to talk to you, and hear your voice.  The voice that is fading way too fast as it finds a new home deep and away.  Your voice.  It’s your laugh that is staying the longest for me.  Your playful, teasing, mischievous laugh… .  And that look, the one that you got when you scolded us, but could barely hold back the laughing yourself.  Yeah, you had one of those too.

This Christmas, in the Kane home, we are only half put together.  It’s been a strange year of health challenges, and hospital stays, and bodies that don’t work.  This is my third year down for the Holidays.  Each year, more traditions are left undone, and this year it’s most of them.  So far, the tree is up and has lights.  But the ornaments are still in their boxes.  And the rest of the decorations are still unpacked.

 Except for the nativity sets…  

Those made their way to the coffee table, where our almost three year old Bentley arranged and rearranged the pieces over and over again for the longest time, which my daughter watched, and told me about.  By the time my attention had made it to him, he had become so concerned about baby Jesus not having a blanket to stay warm,  that he was beginning to get very upset, signing and saying over and over “where blanket baby, where? oh no.”  In an effort to calm his agitation, Katie finally tore a corner off of some wrapping paper, and gave it to him.  He tenderly took this piece of paper, and covered the baby Jesus, and kept covering him as the paper would occasionally get blown off in the hustle and bustle of the gifts being opened.   Something magical happens when a child discovers a nativity set.

Bentley and the Nativity

Bentley and the Nativity


Today, Tammy and daddy decorated your place just like you always did.  Daddy called me to make sure I’d seen the email with the pictures, showing the flowers that I sent him for Christmas, knowing how much you love fresh flowers.  I answered his phone call, to hear him singing a song to you.  With my emotions so close to the surface these days, the tears started flowing and my voice got stuck in my throat like it always does, and I could hardly talk to him for a minute.  You always said this was “the gift of weeping” and I could never figure out how you thought it was a gift because I think it’s a curse.  But I digress.  Daddy sounded happy.  So very happy to have the house just like you always did it.  I’m grateful Tammy was there to help get things set up just right, helping him feel the joy of you all around him.  Here’s a picture of your “tree” with poinsettia plants and santa’s all around.

Your "tree" just how you always did it

Your “tree” just how you always did it


This year, we won’t be hosting any holiday dinners, or even doing half our normal holiday stuff.  We’ve managed two traditions so far… puzzling, and making a few Nieman Marcus Cookie Dough logs.  And I can hear you in my head, as if I were on the phone telling you this, saying to me rather “matter of factly”… “well, that’s all you need and don’t you worry about it.  Not a one of them is gonna be worse off for it!  You need to take care of yourself this year.”  I would have responded in my normal “wanna be a perfect mom need to make memories” response, and would only have gotten about three words in before you would’ve said “now JULIE.”  And then I would resolutely tell you that you were right.  And oddly enough, I would have listened.

In our most recent General Conference, Elder Bednar describes a visit to Elder Hales while he was recovering from a serious illness.  He asked Elder Hales, “What lessons have you learned as you have grown older and been constrained by decreased physical capacity?” Elder Hales paused for a moment and responded,

“When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.”

And so it is.  Sometimes the way we are forced to learn things is far from our best laid plans.  Even though I feel broken, and my mind is tired, and my body is weak, and my spirit is weary… there is plenty of joy still.  Joy in my perfect little family, in our perfect little world.  With my Mama watching over us from heaven, like the Shepherds over their flocks by night.  And a Savior in a manger with a little paper blanket, and His Peace and Good Will, here in our perfect little life on earth.

Merry Christmas Mama.

On of our Nativity sets

One of our Nativity sets

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