Five years of missing...

Debbie Chapman 1949-2006Last November, I hit the milestone of ten years living in Canada. In December, Matt and I celebrated ten years of being married. In August, we’ll celebrate ten years since our wedding day.

These milestones have been happy ones, associated with happy times and good changes.

But there’s one milestone that I mark this week has my stomach in knots and I’m not sure how to stem the tide of tears that are waiting to flow.

Five years she’s missed…

…the joyous news that we were having a baby.

…talking to me after his birth, learning his name.

…hearing about or seeing his escapades.

…holding him, hugging him, loving him.

…sharing in the moments of pride over his accomplishments.

…giving advice when he s sick or presenting his parents with a challenge to overcome.

…laughing when he says something funny.

Five years we’ve missed…

…her presence in our lives.

It’s hard to imagine a harder time to lose your mom, but it’s hard no matter when it happens. There’s never a time in life when you don’t need and want your mom around.

I miss my mom for a million reasons, but the one that brings the most acute sense of sorrow is knowing my son will learn about her only through pictures and stories that I share. I knew my mom and I knew how much she d love any child of mine.

Brandon doesn’t know her now, but he will.

I feel relief, but I won't rejoice

Nine and a half years ago, I was sitting at my desk on a Tuesday morning when I received an email from Matt. The email said that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center Towers in New York City. I ran in to tell my boss - the president of the company. He didn’t believe me. No, he wasn’t shocked. He flat out didn’t believe it.

When a second plane hit, the shock came. As did the comments. Despite knowing that I am an American, this man stood before me and talked about how the US deserved it for not acting in a recent incident that occurred with his home country. I had never heard of the event he described, but his sentiment was just plain wrong.

As we (the staff) scrambled to find news sources that were working, we found out that the towers were collapsing. We didn’t have a TV, so a co-worker and I walked to a nearby diner and watched CNN in disbelief with the other patrons. It was a somber atmosphere. Even had the towers not fallen, we knew that many died that day. I don’t even remember where or how I heard about the plane hitting the Pentagon or the fourth plane that crashed in the field in Pennsylvania. I just knew that my country was under attack and it left me in shock, feeling helpless at being so far away from my family.

I feared for my family. President George W. Bush’s brother, Jeb, was the Governor of Florida. What if they decided to go after Bush’s family? My family lived in the capital. Would they attack there too?

There were so many fears those days.

There were so many tears those days.

The grief for the victims and the loss to our country was palpable. People who disagreed with each other united in the effort to wake up each morning and move on. A new generation lost its innocence in the face of unspeakable tragedy - much like the generation who lived through Pearl Harbor. Only this time, the images and the details were immediate with absolutely no delay of transmission.

Every day after 9/11, I came home and was glued to the TV. Tears flowed regularly as I watched devastated families and friends search for missing loved ones. Seeing hope lost as hours, days and weeks went by with no word. This lasted for weeks until my husband finally said

On September 11, 2001, a nation lost 3,000 human lives and no one rejoiced. Later, we saw videos of Al-Qaida’s form of arrogant rejoicing.

This morning, Matt once again delivered significant news to me. Osama bin Laden has been tracked down and killed.

On May 1, 2011, the life of the man who was the mastermind behind those attacks has prompted rejoicing in the streets.

Some would argue he deserved to die. A life for a life. I’m personally troubled by these events because I grew up in a country believing in due process for all - even the likes of Ted Bundy and Timothy McVeigh. Even Saddam Hussein had a trial, even if it was only a formality and we all knew what the end result would be.

A man’s death - evil though he may have been - doesn’t warrant rejoicing. Relief certainly. His reign of terror is over. He can no longer spearhead murdering innocent people. He can no longer spread his hatred.

No, we won’t mourn the loss of his life as we did the loss of the thousands of lives he ended in his years of reign over Al-Qaida, but is it right to rejoice in his death, just because he is evil and we consider ourselves good?

And if we didn’t appreciate the gloating of Al-Qaida, how is it any different for us to celebrate his death?

Creating a connection or morbid gift idea?

My grandmother on my dad's side came to live with my family in late summer of 1995, because it was either that or a nursing home. Some of the family preferred that she go to the nursing home, but my mom and dad were adamant that she should get to live in comfort with family who could be there for her, caring for her and keeping her company 24/7. They both felt strongly, and encouraged myself and my brothers, to make my grandmother feel like a blessing rather than the burden she often claimed to be. For me, it was fantastic. I'd always had a special relationship with Grandma C and loved hearing her stories. This was a good thing, because her memory was failing and she often repeated the same stories multiple times without realizing it.

I used Grandma C's stories this in at least one or two papers that I was working on for my college classes at the time. She was an extremely valuable resource for the history of my hometown as well as the university I was attending. Boy, was she ever proud that I went to her alma mater. She'd tell me stories about sneaking out to meet her beau - the man she was eventually married to, my Grandpa C. Grandma and Grandpa got married in secret, though, because my grandmother wanted to teach. In the 1930s, women weren't allowed to continue teaching after they married. My Grandma C was a REBEL! How cool is that? You can see why having her live with us was no hardship in my opinion. Far from being a burden, we loved having her there.

In November 1996, when I was 19 years old, Grandma C had a "silent" heart attack, they called it. It was picked up through some routine testing several weeks later and the doctors told us that she had approximately six weeks to live. This wasn't unexpected as she was 84 years old and had been experiencing a number of health problems for a couple of years including congestive heart failure and emphysema (she was a smoker). Her emphysema had progressed to the point that she needed oxygen and that was when she was forced to quit smoking for obvious safety reasons.

After the doctors told us their prognosis for my grandmother, my mom and dad got an idea of how we could create some special memories for what we were fairly certain was going to be my grandmother's final Christmas. They asked my brothers and I each to think about something special and practical that Grandma C would use for whatever time she had left. Something that she could enjoy. The idea was that our respective gifts would be "passed on" to us after her death. That the object we decided to gift her would be a way of connecting with her and that special time of being with her as she passed out of this life would always remind us of the person she was and what she meant to us for years after she was gone.

I have no idea what my brothers picked to give her. I can't remember. But the gift I chose was a pink terry cloth bathrobe. Grandma C loved the color pink, but her mother wouldn't let her wear it for some reason. So, my mom, knowing how much she loved pink used to spoil her with pink moo moos, nightgowns - anything she could wear that was comfortable. Grandma C loved the robe. She was an incredibly gracious woman anyway, but you could see the genuine pleasure on her face when she opened my gift to her that Christmas morning. She then proceeded to wear that robe just about every day of the rest of her life. She died January 17th, 1997 - less than one month after that last Christmas.

I'm going to be honest; pink is probably the last color I would willingly choose for a bathrobe, but Grandma's robe is hanging in my bathroom to this day and I won't replace it unless it starts to fall apart. Knowing how much she enjoyed it reminds me of that last year and a half that we had with her.

I still love this idea! It isn't about the object itself so much as it's about the memories that can surround it. I love the thought of nurturing common ground between different generations of family and having something special and tangible to cherish that bond. Obviously, you don't say, "Here, this is for you to give to me when you kick the bucket." That would be insensitive. But is it so awful to give a gift and say that it's something you'd like to be able to pass on to a particular person? Grandma C didn't know what was going to happen with the items each of us gave her, so she enjoyed them openly. The benefit to me has been a practical, daily-use item that reminds me of her - even 13 years after her death.

What do you think? Is it a creative way to make a connection or just a morbid gift idea?