Kevin and Mary Francis(Photo: Coloradoan library)Buy PhotoCONNECT>TWEET>LINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE
We were talking about Christmas recently with our wonderful mentor and coach, Al Killeen.
We were talking about trying to stay grounded and present during the holidays and he posed the most challenging question to us: “What would you do if you knew this was your last holiday with your loved ones? What would you focus on, what would you let go of and what would you cherish most?” We had a compelling conversation about what really matters and how we can alleviate pressure and stress that often comes with the holidays.
This conversation led to much reflection and an additional conversation about how we actually did spend our final Christmases with our mothers who we lost several years ago. Kevin’s mom had been battling breast cancer for over a year when we learned that her time was limited. We had all planned on being with her for what might be our last Christmas together.
She lived for her children, so to see everyone safely tethered to their significant other in those final days, made her sweet face light up like it hadn’t in quite some time. We had a star named after her and bought her fuzzy slippers. During her final few days, we shared time together listening to music, enjoying the beautiful tree and laughing together as we often did for so many years before.
When she decided to rest, we all took turns sharing quiet time with her in her room, holding her hand, keeping her comfortable and warm and thanking her for the love and care she so generously showered on all who were lucky enough to know her.
It is no wonder that on Christmas night, surrounded by her loving family, she decided it was time and she let go. Some might say they couldn’t think of anything worse than losing their mother on Christmas, but Kevin’s reply has always been that she loved us all so much that she knew it was a time we would all be together and we could help each other through it. She was even thoughtful in her death. If we had to do it all over again, we would not change a thing and I’m pretty sure neither would she.
Six years later, we had no idea it would be our last Christmas with my mother. We had two sweet babies to enjoy and she couldn’t wait to share Christmas with us. We thought her cancer treatments were working and that remission was just around the corner. She had been doing radiation treatment and a low-dose chemotherapy so we knew the holiday would be about warmth and healing.
Knowing that she had lost weight because of her illness, I bought her the warmest, softest flannel pajamas I could find. We had similar tastes, so I had them clean and ready for her when she arrived. She would spend the majority of the next few days in them. We had also printed and taped pictures of the kids around her room, to keep her company when she needed rest. With her energy low and the challenge of wrangling two little ones, we had no major plans, we just wanted to enjoy our special time together doing what she did best, being a grandma.
One of our favorite things to do together was cook. I did most of the hard tasks to conserve her energy, but I loved the way she rushed around my kitchen with her tasting spoon, writing down recipes and notes for me — which I now treasure — as we prepared food together.
This was in between getting her fix of feeding the kids, snuggles, singing them "Silent Night" to get them to sleep and playing with them on the floor. We had several slow, cozy days together. We drank coffee and tea, ate comforting food, watched some of our favorite old Christmas classics, listened to Bing Crosby and Dean Martin and spent much of our time enjoying the fire.
While we didn’t know it was our last Christmas together, I don’t think we could have purposely created a more meaningful holiday together. And while many of our holidays in the past were hectic and stressful, these special experiences gave way to the tradition of creating a less chaotic and more meaningful holiday season.
We don’t always get it right, but we do look back without regret and we look forward knowing that it’s not the noise and flash and material things that will make this time special. We all know that in the end we don’t get to take things with us anyway. It is our loved ones who are the most precious gifts in our lives and we are so grateful for memories like these to remind us of that.
Kevin and Mary Francis write about family life and parenting for the Coloradoan. Contact them at FrancisTeamColorado@gmail.com.
Source : http://www.coloradoan.com/story/opinion/2017/12/23/francis-making-every-moment-last-christmas-special/965904001/