by Janeal Yancey, Miss January 2016
This month’s theme on Arkansas Women Bloggers is CELEBRATE. As we are winding down the Holiday season, it’s easy to think about all the beautiful celebrations associated with Christmas and New Year’s. I normally write about meat and livestock, and there are lots of great ways to celebrate with a ham or a nice beef roast. Yet, for this post, I’m stepping away from that and writing about celebrating life.
This was a hard year for our family to celebrate Christmas. My mother passed away suddenly this summer, and this was our first Christmas without her. Anyone who has lost someone close to them knows how hard it is to celebrate those first milestones without the one you love. Buying gifts without her on the list, making the dishes she loved on Christmas day, taking the kids to see Santa without her help to corral them were all more difficult than I can explain.
As I contemplated what to write about around the theme of celebrate, all I could think about was celebrating her. We had a celebration of her life a few days after she passed, but I feel like the real celebration of her life is in the way we live our lives going forward.
- We celebrated her when we put up her Christmas tree at Dad’s house over the Thanksgiving holiday. We hung the ridiculous number of ornaments. We laughed at how old and worn some of them were. We poked fun at each other’s hand-made ornaments from grade school. It was like she was right there with us, laughing and cutting up.
- I celebrated her when I volunteered to shop with kids in need in our community. I made sure my daughters know how important it is to help everyone have a Merry Christmas.
- My sister celebrates Mother in her classroom when she gives extra time and attention to kids that struggle with learning. Mom taught us to appreciate ALL kids and what they can contribute to the world.
- We will celebrate her by helping with Vacation Bible School and the children’s programs at church.
- I celebrate her by embracing my naturally-positive attitude about life and assuring others that everything will be okay.
- We celebrate her when we include everyone and ensure that no one feels left out. This was so important to Mother. (As kids, we had to invite every single kid in our class to our birthday party, no matter what.)
- We celebrate her when we speak to children like adults and use ‘big’ words. Thanks to my mother, I had quite the vocabulary and without even realizing I’d done it, I passed that trait on to my girls.
- We celebrate her by taking charge. Mother never sat around and waited for someone to ask for her help. If she saw a need, she just took charge to get things done. The older I get, the more I feel this part of Mother’s personality come out in me. Now that she’s gone, I’ve really embraced it.
- We celebrate her by continuing to laugh. It isn’t always easy to laugh through grief, but somehow she made it seem natural. Our family has gotten through the darkest hours with laughter.
- We will celebrate her life when we talk about her. Because they are so young, my youngest daughter and nephew will likely not remember my mother, but they will know her. They will know the things she loved and how she lived her life. They will know about her service and her faith.
In the days and weeks after her passing, I felt a sadness that I’d never known before. I knew my life would never be the same again. I grieved for what my kids would miss by not having her in their lives. But as we moved on, I knew that her spirit would live on in us and the effect we have on the world. She (and my Dad) passed on the spirit and love of their beloved grandparents by celebrating their lives with us.
- She celebrated her grandfather by laughing and joking, even in the hard times.
- She celebrated her grandmother by working tirelessly to make her grandkids feel special.
- She celebrated her grandmother by telling us to be ‘Pretty on the inside.’
- She celebrated her uncle by teaching Special Ed and helping kids who struggle to learn, even those who struggle to talk.
- They celebrate my dad’s grandfather with the ‘Christmas Eve Gifts’ tradition.
- We celebrate my grandmother by enjoying her Pozole recipe with homemade tortillas to ring in the New Year.
I could go on and on. My parents celebrating their loved ones is what shaped my childhood and my Christian faith. I plan to pass that tradition on to my girls. Celebrating the life and loves of my mother has really helped me deal with her loss. I now know that she likely did the same when she lost people that she loved.
As we begin a new year without Mother, it’s still hard to think about continuing without her. But, I know that we still have a lot to celebrate.