Motherless Christmas

On Thanksgiving Day, I was picking the turkey in the kitchen while our gracious host washed dishes. I was full of good food and was enjoying an Irish coffee while watching my baby boy flirt with our hostess and hearing my husband laugh from the other room. My host’s question startled me out of my turkey daze and my mind scrambled to answer, “Are the holidays difficult without your parents?”

You’d think that would be easy to answer if for no other reason than it’s a yes or no question that people have been asking me for 15 years; yet in just saying yes, I’m afraid of coming off as a self-pitying woman ungrateful for the family she has now, wishing for the family she had years ago. I picture the question-asker imagining me crying as we set up our Christmas tree, fingering ornaments that remind me of days gone by. Crying tears into the dough as I make my mother’s favorite Christmas cookies. Calling my siblings to recall wonderful Christmases from our childhood.

But if I say no, I’ll look like a jerk—a person who is callous about her parents being dead. Who, when people ask where her parents are, answers, “They’re six feet under.” Who has actually formed a club called the SFU club for friends who have also lost both parents. Who jokes with her sister about putting the fun in funeral.

Actually, those things are all true, except I am not callous.

In that moment, like in many moments, I mumbled a clumsy, confused answer. Something about how the holidays aren’t difficult, but of course they are, but not really.

I guess I don’t know what I’m missing.  Do I miss Christmas with my parents? Well, yes, but only in the same way you miss your Christmas with your parents when you were 20. You see, that’s the only kind of Christmas I know with my parents. I don’t know what it would be like if my parents were alive and we spent Christmas with them. I never had a grownup relationship with them.

When my parents died, my mother and I hadn’t even had very many grown-up conversations yet.

I do remember one we had that last Christmas break together.  I told her I was beginning to feel like myself again—after an adolescence of trying to figure out who I was and forgetting what it was like to be the carefree, free-spirited Blythe of my childhood, I was finally remembering. Mother seemed to understand. She uncharacteristically hugged me and told me she was so glad. I was affirmed in that moment and knew that she knew exactly what I was trying to communicate to her.

love child blythe

That Christmas, my crazy sister stole my makeup when she went out of town for a weekend, and Mother played peacemaker. My little sister and I watched “Little Women” a million times while eating microwave popcorn, listening to Mother sew or type in her office off the family room. My oldest sister–pregnant with her first baby–was visiting from the east coast, and we stayed up late talking and watching tv and playing cards, often with Mother. Mother baked all her traditional treats and decorated elaborately with two trees and garlands and ribbon everywhere. Every Christmas detail was perfect. I can hear her laugh on Christmas morning while we opened gifts.

When I think of my mother, I miss her. She was spectacular.

When I had my babies, it was tough to be motherless. I’ve watched my friends’ mothers step in for them, coming out to stay for weeks or bringing meals if they’re already in town, spoiling the babies, babysitting the older children, cleaning houses, reassuring their daughters about their abilities to be mothers themselves. I could list 783 reasons life would be better, easier, more lovely, funner, more complicated if I had my mamma. It would be so worth whatever relational drama might come with it. I would love a home to go home to. An example of motherhood, a keeper of memories, a champion of my children, a soft place to land. Having my mother around would tell me where I come from and who I am. She could answer my sewing questions, help me make Christmas mints, spoil my children, adore my husband, teach me how to be a woman.

Sometimes a motherless woman flails around, unsure of what she is doing, depending on substitutes to guide her.

And yet, I still maintain that all is not lost. I don’t know exactly what I’m missing. I do know what I will gain in Heaven, though, and what I know is just a fraction of the joy of that relationship reunited and restored. As a Christian, I believe that there are far worse things than death. Death is the end of a season. It’s not easy, it’s not painless. But it opens the door for us to be one step closer to having the relationships God designed the way He intended—when I see my mamma again, our relationship will be perfectly perfect. It won’t be tainted by selfishness, self-doubt, bitterness, anger. It will be full of pursuit, joy, laughter, intention, unashamed love. Thinking about that eases the missyness a bit. Quite a bit, actually.

I have hope that I will see my mother again, that our relationship will be amazing. But my hope does not rest there. It rests in a God who lovingly designed relationships to be eternal. A God who created the role of mamma and knows how precious her love for her children is and who treasures the child’s desperation for her mother. A God who does not leave us in despair but walks the sadness with us—who sent His own son to earth so that His other children would not be alone. Immanuel, God with us. My hope is in a God who bridged every gap to hold my hand and cradle my heart.

Are the holidays hard without my parents? Is a motherless Christmas heartbreaking? Well, yes, but it’s not overwhelming. What is overwhelming is the hope I have in Immanuel, the promise of a love never broken.

15 thoughts on “Motherless Christmas

  1. Tricia

    Oh, how I love this Blythe! You articulate what I feel so often. I love that I have my Mom’s recipes written in her handwriting-the red velvet cake recipe smeared with red food coloring, her stuffing that I make every year.
    I think watching my kids grow has made me miss my mom more, because she would have loved seeing them as adults, and would have loved on the twins she never really knew. My hope though, is that our relationship will be “perfectly perfect” as you said. That is glorious to me! I can’t wait for the healing that will take place then!
    I love you sister! I need to be part of that club! I guess I should started answering the, “where are your parents?” question with, “they are in a box in the granite wall under the American flag right on top of Sydney Stenicka’s dad at Shrine of Remembrance.”

    1. blytheleanne Post author

      First of all, I am surprised you don’t already answer that question with that answer! Ha! You can definitely be a part of the SFU club; the six feet under is just a metaphor anyway. Those of us orphans who laugh because otherwise we’ll cry are all welcome. <3

      Having an eternal perspective is the only way I can face the grief of not having my mother here on Earth. What we miss here with our moms is a sliver of a fraction of the time and experiences we’ll have in the new Heaven and new Earth. She will know your twins then. As well as J’s twins! What an awesome thing to look forward to. In the meantime, you are an amazing mama yourself. You love big and you trust Jesus with your littles and you put one foot in front of the other on those tough days, trusting that the Lord will carry you through. You are an example to me and I’m so blessed to call you sister. And to have you in our club. :)

  2. Shellie

    Thank you for sharing your tender heart, sweet friend. I just know that your mamma would be so proud of you and, oh my goodness, would she be crazy about your beautiful babies!
    Love you much…

    1. blytheleanne Post author

      Thank you, sweet Shellie! Mamma would also love your babies, especially that little boy–she had a soft spot for baby boys. I’m not sure how it all works with Heaven and eternal perspective, but if she knows your story, she is pleading with God on your behalf for you all to be home together next week. I love you. <3

  3. Beth

    This is so, so lovely. Thanks for sharing. You are such a wonderful mother and your two babies are so blessed to have you!

  4. Caitlin L.

    I loved this, B. Thank you for explaining what is so difficult to explain. You’ve put into words exactly how I feel, too, and the same struggle I have when someone asks me the hard questions. Thank you! I love you and know Mother would be so proud of you. Some of my favorite memories of her are hearing her laughter ring through the hallway when you would chat with her in her bedroom and I’d be tucked away in bed.

    1. blytheleanne Post author

      I’m glad, C-lo. It’s hard to communicate some of these truths to people who haven’t been through something similar. The more time passes, the more I look forward to eternity and the more I realize how fleeting these days on earth are. We have so much to look forward to–won’t it be glorious to hear her laughter again???

  5. Jen

    Thank you so much for sharing!! Callous would NEVER be a word I would use for you. :) Your mother was an incredible woman–I am so blessed to have known her even for a short time, and for how young I was. Love you!

    1. blytheleanne Post author

      Jen, she LOVED you. She thought so highly of you and was grateful for your love in my life. As am I. <3

  6. Caroline

    You love deeply and live passionately — attributes surely learned from your lovely, gracious mother. She would certainly be thrilled at how marvelously you mother your children, and your devotion as a wife! Yes — you are mothering well and are wise and discerning beyond your years. You bring hope through the darkness of grief and the Lord has greatly utilized you to hearten those who suffer. I love you!

    1. blytheleanne Post author

      Thank you so much, Caroline. I know you know how I am affected as a mom, wife, and woman by not having mamma here with me. But as you understand, I look forward to being reunited with her some day, and our relationship will be whole and awesome! <3

  7. Liz

    What a moving post, my friend! It makes me want to read a whole book of stories about your mama. :) I love the perspective Jesus has give you on this life — it is a rare and precious gift.

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