EDITOR’S NOTE: The following editorial is a reprint of the editorial I wrote two years ago after my sister Anne died. So many readers told me they connected with the message, especially those grieving the loss of a loved one, that I decided to share it again this holiday season.
This year many of us are grieving the division in our country—and the realization that racism, bigotry and misogyny is not in the past. It is a grief not unlike the loss of a loved one because friendships have been strained or severed and our country feels different to many. But we all have much more in common: every human being wants to be happy and loved—that’s it—happy and loved. It isn’t about wealth or fashion or the latest tech device—because in the end–in our last years, our last moments, it’s all about love—the love we gave, the love we received.
And Anne, we still miss you. You would be proud of Jonathan, Andrea and Carolyn—and your grandsons Rylan, Jayden and Andyn are happy, growing boys. We feel your presence sometimes and know somewhere you are with our sisters Carol and Marilyn, brother David and Mom and Dad. You all remind us to live in the moment.
Once again, we celebrate the holiday without a family member. I shall never forget the first Christmas without our sister Marilyn, the first of the four who was diagnosed with familial dilated cardiomyopathy. No matter that the living room was full of children, grandchildren and our parents, No matter that the Nativity Scene was on a special table—as always—and the tree strung with popcorn—as always, its lights reflecting in everyone’s eyes. You could feel the loss. Of course Mom reminded us firmly that the best way to honor Marilyn was to live our lives well—to hold on to the memories but it was our responsibility to live and enjoy the wonder of life here on earth.
Right after that Christmas, my brother David died. It had only been nine months since Marilyn’s death, Marilyn died on Good Friday — David on the 12th day of Christmas. Seven years later our sister Carol died during the Christmas season and this year just hours after Palm Sunday, Anne walked into the light toward her new journey, I guess I could say there is symmetry in there somehow—they all died during seasons of birth or rebirth.
I sometimes close my eyes and try to remember when it was just us 10 kids and Mom and Dad—a light-hearted time—teasing, arguments long forgotten –lots of noise and pranks on each other. I wonder who we would have all become if Marilyn, David, Carol and Anne were well—and without cardiomyopathy.
Ah, so easy to speculate. The truth is: we are a little wiser. We have empathy that some don’t, we are more understanding, less judgmental. Oh, don’t worry—we are definitely NOT perfect— we give our opinion when none was asked; we try to make things right when it is not our place to do so and are more impatient. But the thread that ties this messy, loud family together is love—simply love.
Certainly there are many families going through difficult times. Maybe we should all send holiday cards to people we only know slightly but know they are challenged this year. How nice to send some loving wishes to those who could use some unexpected support this holiday. It is always comforting to know people care.
And smile more often at strangers—love will always triumph over grief, sadness and hate.
Let yourself fall into the season—let yourself be the child again with hope in your eyes.
From my heart to yours,