Then more torture came.
Instead of driving me home, my mother took me to visit the grave.
“Let me show you,” she urged. “It might make you feel better.”
It had been years since she had died.
We stepped out — mom at the lead, as I tried to be strong.
Her plot was at the end of the row. We stood there looking down.
“Remember I love you.”
These were the last words she left us, etched into her bronze headstone. They made my breathing patchy and my eyelids close.
As I felt my knees wobble, my mother pulled me into her, to shelter my sorrow, and so I could share her own. Then she sat on top of the grave, with her hand on the stone.
“Hi mom,” she said. “I miss you.”
We all do, I thought.
I remember her. Especially at Christmas.
She would sit on her legs, at the foot of her sparkling tree, and hand out gifts to her giddy grandchildren. We bounced like kangaroos at her feet.
After the gift wrap had been collected, she would rush into the kitchen to check on the turkey. It was always overcooked, but it never mattered. She was the glue. She kept us all a family.
When the dishes were washed, she would sneak me into her room and slide $5 into my pocket with a “shhhhhing” finger to her lips. Then she’d stare at me and say, “You are a beautiful girl.”
I remember her. She was wonderful.
After her death, I thought I’d never meet another woman like her. But when I was introduced to my boyfriend’s grandmother, Dolores, I felt that same adoration — from her and from her grandchildren for her.
Her home was filled with family and friends on Christmas, too. She was their queen.
Last year, when she went into the hospital on Christmas Eve, I cried. For her family. For her pain. For my grandmother.
How sad it is to lose someone you love. How horrible it is to lose someone you love on Christmas.
This year, we will feel the heartache that comes when a great woman, or family member, is missed. It will make our knees quake and our throats ache.
It might be unbearable. At least for awhile.
But then we will remember. It is their love they want us to feel.
(Originally published Saturday, in the Poughkeepsie Journal)