Remembering John

Christmas is a joyous season as I wrote about last week. However, for me it is also a sad event, at least the few days leading up to Christmas itself. For the three days prior to Christmas Eve, I fight a jagged hurt in my heart. My Paul-Newman-blue-eyed son died a few days before Christmas, sneaking up on 9 years ago.

Each year around Thanksgiving I begin the usual hectic Christmas pace many of us do to prepare for this holiday. As a little boy, John loved helping decorate sugar cookies, mix the dough for the breads, drag out the decorations. He anticipated Christmas with childhood glee.

As a young man he always was first to appreciate the decorations, help when I asked, grab a cookie to tease me. Those are the memories that help me get through these next few days and then to enjoy the actual holiday festivities. But church services always sadden met for Christmas is celebrating the birth if Mary’s Son. For me, it also commemorates the death of mine.

John didn’t have to die. He made choices about alcohol until the need for drink controlled him.

And killed him.

As a family we tried so many times to intervene. We even got him into rehab a few times when he asked. As soon as he got out, he started again. Alcohol took away his joy in being with family, his humor, his true personality, and kept him away. His choice. I was mourning that long before I mourned his death.

Three days before Christmas I got a call early in the morning from the emergency room nurse at a local hospital. She asked me to come quickly. John was in critical condition. He died with strangers around him. Though I hurried to get there the weather was wintry dangerous. I was a few minutes too late. My last sight of him was on a hospital gurney in a cold room where I had to provide a positive ID on this shell of a man.

A piece of me died that day.  My heart still aches. Harbor Historic Lighthouse-12-22

We buried him three days after Christmas.

So Christmas has become bitter and sweet for me. It always will be. And each year on the anniversary of his death, I go down to our harbor and watch for the historic lighthouse light to come on. To me for some reason, doing this makes me feel closer to John if only for those few moments.

How does this relate to writing? All the emotions stirred in me over this event get used in my writing. I think it’s one reason I love reading subtle humor though I can’t write it well. Our lives are the fodder for our words and the worlds we build with them. It’s also the reason, I will likely never write a Christmas-themed story though again I enjoy reading them. Usually…

I write this to remind all of us, writers or not, that experiences in life can strengthen us, teach us lessons, and often contain the tart with the sweet. I am blessed with other sons who are with me yet. My faith allows me to see John in a better place, free from the demons that drove him while he lived. That comforts me.

May your holiday season be all you wish it to be, and if the holiday takes an unexpected swerve, allow yourself to gain strength from whatever comes your way.

Explore posts in the same categories: Holidays, Life Skills, Photos, Uncategorized, Writing

8 Comments on “Remembering John”

  1. Maureen Says:

    Hi and compliments of the season to you and yours,
    I came across your blog on Alphainventions and I am so glad I did. As I read about the sad and tragic demise of your son, I could only imagine how this time of the year must be for you. You sound an incredibly strong woman who loves her family dearly.
    Best wishes

  2. Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal experience. You’re always written with humour and deep emotion. It’s good to have that creative outlet. I think it helps one grieve. And reminds the rest of us to appreciate those in our lives. Thank you

  3. caseyclifford Says:

    Keziah and Maureen,

    Thanks for adding a comment on my blog. Especially about an issue which still scars my heart. However, as you commented and I made mention, for me writing is my creative outlet for all my life experiences, sad and happy, good and bad.

    I wish both of the the most prosperous of new year’s and you achieve whatever your #1 goal is for 2009. 🙂

    Now, on to my next round of edits for my contracted book. Yippee!

  4. edie17 Says:

    Sometimes there are no words. I wish I could see you right now to give you a warm hug. Instead I’m sending you a big cyber hug.

  5. Mary Jo Says:

    Thanks, Edie. I felt that hug. 🙂

  6. […] If you knew John, send a birthday wish heavenward. If you want to know more about him, read a post from a few years […]

  7. […] Here is the link for Remembering John. […]

  8. Otilia Says:

    I appreciate the details you shared out. I look forward to reading much
    more of the same content from you.

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