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'Twas Long Ago

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Christmas was one of my mother's favorite times of the year -- and now that she's gone, I hurt inside.

grandma and kids at christmas

Sue Carswell: For her last Christmas, my mother rallied enough strength in her then-emaciated 90-pound frame to dial the 1-800 number at the Disney Store. She placed an order for five Winnie-the-Pooh nightgowns and one set of Mickey Mouse pajamas.

On Christmas Eve, right before my father read "'Twas the Night before Christmas," my sisters and I helped my mother get up from the living room sofa next to the Christmas tree. Supported by our strong arms, she walked over to the staircase where my nieces and nephews were sitting, one grandchild per step. They were all wearing her presents of whimsical sleeping attire, squealing in delight as they showed off for their grandmother, who just cupped her hands over her mouth in delight.

The breast cancer had spread to her eyes at that point, but she was able to squint and focus in on the sugarplum vision of these young children she so adored. This was a lovely fuzzy picture of the present, one that obviously brought up memories of the past, when we, her five little ones, awaited the reading of our favorite Christmas tale. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

There wasn't a day that passed since she had first learned of her cancer that she didn't say to my father, "Oh, John, you don't know how much I'll miss seeing my grandchildren grow up." It slays me to think that over the years after she passed away, she would have nine additional grandchildren -- a whole staircase banked full of grandkids. I can't get past that notion of what could have been, so I have become someone who avoids Christmas altogether, and instead just go see a movie with my other orphaned friends on Christmas Day. And even though it also kills me, I read aloud "Twas" to myself, because it keeps her very much alive. "The children were nestled all snug in their beds ...."

next: Christmas Around the World
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