By: Rev. W. Jeffrey Campbell, Houston, TX
As I sit and prepare for today’s article I feel the need to take a break from the Nehemiah messages and speak candidly about a topic that has taken root in my life since July 2003.
On July 24, 2003 my mother passed away at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. Mama had battled cancer courageously for over 3 years, always determined to live and not die. It was not until the last two months of her journey that she became unable to work or drive…it all hit like a ton of bricks. During those two months I cared for her in my home and spent many days and nights with her at the hospital until she transitioned. Since that time the holiday season has changed quite drastically for me.
During my mother’s lifetime the only thing that really had to be discussed was where we would spend the holidays. We both knew that wherever one was the other would be. Those days were simple but wonderful and unforgettable, even the year that we had the big fight because I didn’t wake her to go to a Christmas Sunrise Service. She later shared with me that the holidays become very difficult for her since her mother’s passing in 1980. I completely understand that now.
Since my mother’s passing I have to actually think about where I’m going to spend the big days like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each year has been a little bit different but, I’m grateful for the family and friends that have opened their homes and hearts to me during those significant and often difficult times. My Aunt Boyce, Aunt Nellie and Earline, my best friends Gary and Charlotte, Kevin and David, the Materre’s, my church friends James and Kathy, Ira, Jerry and Jacque (I finally made their Christmas Brunch last year) and the Brown Family in Cuero.
The truth is that although each of those homes is filled with love, great food and great company, there will always be a void in my life that is clearly present during this season. It begins with Thanksgiving. After our meal my mother and I would pack up plates of food and take them to different elderly friends in my home community. My mother taught me how to be a servant. Christmas comes next…no matter how old I got, my mother always put up a Christmas tree for me. She taught me the importance of family tradition. Then there’s New Year’s. No matter where I was in the world at the stroke of midnight, I would always pause to call mama and we would wish each other a “Happy New Year!” My birthday is January 4th….a Mexican dinner cooked by my mom. The last birthday we spent together was in 2003. She treated me to dinner at Spanish Flowers on North Main. Our favorite restaurant! Her birthday is January 13th…I loved to give her fresh flowers…they were a symbol of how beautiful she was both inside and out.
I have worked diligently to conquer the grief that was thrust upon me on July 24, 2003. I still remember the words of my grief counselor who defined grief as, “a hand that starts out right in your face and as the years go by the hand moves farther away but never quite disappears.” It is during this season from November through January that the hand seemingly sneaks back into plain sight and has to be dealt with one significant day at a time. The presence of the hand causes me to feel like I’m on the periphery of every family event and gathering of friends that I attend instead of being in the center of celebratory activities. The presence of the hand makes me plan early for this season in an effort to not be left scrambling just a few days before a big day trying to determine what I will do or where I will be. The presence of the hand draws me to a solemn place to remember the days when my mother stood in those prayer circles as we prepared as a family to dine. The presence of the hand drives me to visit her gravesite one more time to look down on the headstone and see her name and those dates so clearly. As I stand there I hear my voice speaking the last words of her Eulogy saying, “Farewell my love! I’ll see you in the morning!” And even with the presence of the hand it still does not seem real or right that I am spending another holiday and birthday season without her.
Someone reading this today has a heavy heart because the hand is present in your life. If there was a cure that I could give you that would help your heart be lighter, that cure would be written in this space on today. I realize that the grief that we feel often propels us to unhealthy acts in an effort to fill the void. Today I encourage you not to rush back to that last person, place or thing that bred an unhealthy situation for you. He, she or it is still not the answer. I encourage you to hold on to the good memories of your loved one(s), trust God, acknowledge the grief but don’t allow it to overtake you. Soon the hand will be in the distance again and you will be stronger.
Much love and Happy Holidays!
Until next week…ROTFL with WJC!
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