Created by Ruth Elliott

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This Broken Road of Grief

I've walked this road before I know but this time it's so final. I've lived in this world without my Mom (Isabel Sanders) for many years (since 1998) but this will be my first Christmas without my Dad (Don Sanders) as part of my earthly family circle.

This afternoon I read Bonnie Stewart's blog post about a Christmas card that had gone astray. Each year for the four years they have lived in their home, a card has arrived for the previous family.

Bonnie's thoughts triggered this post.

Every year my parents sent out their annual Christmas letter. In turn they received cards and letters from friends around the world. The cards and letters were piled up in a special Christmas basket. Once I left home, I was welcome to read through the Christmas cards and letters when I returned.

I would usually sit in the living room with my parents or with only my Dad in recent years. As I went through all the cards and letters, we would chat about the sender. I connected with those people through my parents. Now, my parents are both gone. What will happen to those connections?

Like Bonnie, I stopped sending Christmas cards a few years back. I became a full-time working mother and something had to give. Christmas cards fell by the wayside. Now that we are almost empty nesters, maybe it is time for me to begin this annual connection tradition again.

My Dad was quite modern for an 86 year old. He still wrote letters but he also used email to keep in touch with his friends. After Dad died, one of my tasks was to send an email notice to all of those on his email address list. We gave Dad's computer to a friend of his. That was one very difficult thing after Dad died on May 8th. We had to clear out his apartment by the end of the month. I felt that I was dismantling my Dad's life and then there was nothing physical left. It was different with my Mom because my Dad continued to live in the home they had shared.

Last year Dad came to Saskatoon for Christmas. He spent most of Christmas lying on the couch because of pain in his leg. (cancer) I'm so thankful for the trips we took together and for all the visits we made to his home in Regina. I know that I was a good daughter to him and have no regrets about our time together here on earth.

However, at the moment, I just feel sad. My first Christmas without my Dad.
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  1. Ruth, this is a beautiful tribute to your dad. it feels, in a way, like a Christmas letter TO him, just telling him and all of us how you're doing, giving us a window into who you're missing.

    he had a great smile, your dad: a lot of life in that face. i can imagine he leaves a big hole behind, and i'm sorry.

  2. Thanks Bonnie for your understanding. Those of us who have walked that "broken road of grief" (as you have I know) appreciate every accepting and compassionate thought.

    My Dad's passing does leave a huge hole in my life. Thanks for your words.

    Yesterday when I came home, there were three forwarded Christmas cards and letters for my Dad. They came from people who don't know yet that he passed away. I feel that your blog post helped to prepare me for receiving those letters. So thank-you.

  3. This is beautiful Ruth!
    Charlene sent it to me saying that she thought I would enjoy reading it and and did!
    Yes I agree with Bonnie this is a Christmas card to your dad and I know he is watching and listening and is very proud of you.
    Have a very Merry Christmas and I look forward to seeing more of you in the New Year.

  4. Ruth,

    Some very powerful words there! Thank you so much for sharing.

    All the best to you and your family in the Christmas season and in 2010.


  5. Dan,

    Thanks for your words and your best wishes.

    I keep thinking about myself and my younger brother Larry who both loved to dive into Mom and Dad's Christmas cards and letters. I think it was the opportunity to connect. I've been wondering what my three children will dive into--my emails or Twitter messages or my Facebook account. Maybe it is time for me to send out some snail mail.

  6. Ruth-I was in that spot last Christmas. I decided, since I had written the Christmas letter for my parents for about 20 years, that I would write one more. Since each one had been written as if they were speaking, I chose to do the same for that Christmas letter. I tried to imagine what Dad would say to the friends and family now that he was in Heaven and wrote accordingly.

    That Christmas letter was a form of closure for me - one last time to try and connect him and his friends and family. It was also important for those who hadn't yet heard that he had made the transition to Heaven.

    May God comfort you in the days ahead.
    Hugs,Lorraine W.