Saturday, 22 December 2018

THE EMPTY CHAIR AT OUR CHRISTMAS TABLE

It's funny how the threads of our lives intersect sometimes to create meaning, sometimes giving us a clearer view of what is before us, or what is missing. 

Our daughter Natalie Wright is a curatorial assistant at a Milwaukee arts research institute called The Chipstone Foundation. One of her recent projects involved writing about an installation on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum that explores the idea of absence, grief and loss through the depiction of empty chairs. Natalie writes, "(In these images of empty chairs...)Time at once stands still and passes, asking viewers to consider what remains, what is lost, and why."



This Christmas is the first holiday season in our family without Mom. She passed away on August 16th this year. Christmas Eve was her birthday, so the holidays were always infused with her presence. If you browse late December entries here in the Caregivers' Living Room, you will always find an entry about how we celebrated Mom's birthday. Since Mom's death, my sister Karen and I have been wondering aloud, "What will we do at Christmas? How can we manage the holidays without Mom?" Our chats would inevitably end with a shake of the head, "It's going to be so... weird." 



So, here's what we planned. My sister is coming to our village in the mountains with her family. We will ski and snowshoe with our dogs off their leashes. We will skate on the river. We will go to mass on Christmas Eve and the priest will read an 'intention' for Mom. We will all remember her and say a prayer that she is resting in peace and happy in the afterlife. Afterwards, at dinner around our table, we will lift a glass of champagne to Mom and wish her a happy birthday. I'm sure there will be stories told, with laughter and maybe tears. 

This first Christmas without Mom, we're discovering new holiday traditions - ones that feel right for us at this point in our loss. What I've learned is that talking about traditions in the family, about what feels most healing is a good approach. If you have experienced a loss in your family this year or expect to experience one in the coming year, planning to remember a loved one at family celebrations can help to ease the pain of loss. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone. 
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