A Christmas Gift

Only three of us showed up to my yoga class today so we downward-dogged and chatted a bit, too. Pat, the instructor was talking about a great new consignment store. “I have these Dooney and Burke purses that were my mom’s. They’re really nice, but I don’t think I’ll ever use them. I’m thinking of taking them into the store,” she said. “I hate to give them up because they were my mom’s, but you know, we need to clean out our stuff.”

“ I have John’s things all over the house,” a woman who had lost her son a little over a year ago said. “I’m not giving them up.”

“I can understand that,” Pat said. “You don’t have to.”

“I even have a whole area that’s kind of a memorial to him, “ the woman said. She might have even said, “shrine,” I can’t remember now. “I have pictures of him and candles.”

There was a small silence. “That’s nice,” Pat said. “It must make you feel good to see him everyday.”

“I’m not sure if it makes it harder,” the woman said.

Because we were inverted, I couldn’t see anyone’s faces to see their expression. Little emotion was coming through the voices.

“And we have his ashes, of course,” the woman said.

“Are they in an urn?” Pat asked.

“Oh, a big beautiful urn,” the woman said.

I morphed the image in my head of a small urn to a large one.

“That’s great,” Pat said, her tone now ultra cheery. “You can say hello to him every day.”

There was another silence, then the woman said, “Well, I just moved the altar near the urn downstairs.”

“Oh? Why?” Pat asked.

“Well, it’s almost Christmas and I need to have room for the decorations. My grandchildren will want the decorations,” the woman said.

Later as I drove home, I replayed the conversation in my head. As I said, all this was being discussed in such bland tones, but underneath we’d all felt the profound sense of loss. Hard to lose your mother—horrible to lose your son.

I’d been worried about this kind, upstanding woman—how she was going to withstand her son’s death. How she was going to keeping going?

But now I could see that Christmas and the grandchildren were going to be the saving graces. She was ready to move on for the next generation. And she could begin to heal.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. Happy New Year to all.

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