Needless to say it was not a "Merry Christmas" in the Sallee household today, instead it was the last Sallee family Christmas as I know it, the last Christmas with mom. That's heavy, huh? So my favorite Christmas movie is " A Christmas Carole" by Charles Dickens, and this year I have somehow seen four different versions of it. And everyone knows the end when Ebenezer wakes up, and discovers he is still alive with the chance to bless, and love and spread Christmas cheer; then he goes running through the streets yelling "Merry Christmas!" Truth be told that I didn't feel like saying Merry Christmas this year, it was more an act of honor, not merriment or happiness. But I think the happy warm feeling of Christmas Day, with the perfect gifts, carefully placed house decorations and the big feast is just a facade. And a lot of this holiday is distraction from a much holier and more somber day than we give it credit for. Sure we sing Christmas hymns and carols and "O Holy Night" might bring tears to our eyes. And there are so many wonderful Christmas movies to watch that talk around the idea of a winter holiday that involves good feelings, love, gifts and a happy ending. But the real Christmas story isn't glamorous or sparkly or involve trees, tinsel, bows or family gift exchanges, it involved a drafty barn, hay and a feeding trough for a crib as well as flights in the night to flee danger. And there was certainly no "happy ending" a few years down the road. There is no warm and fuzzy feeling or a happily ever after at the end of my Christmas story either, instead I'm more dwelling in that end part of the Christ story: His suffering and sacrifice. And I'm understanding so much more what Christ sacrificed. Seeing the story in a new light I'm realizing this chapter in my family's story is almost done with all its traditions and good feelings. There are new chapters of the book are yet to be written. And now we wait.
Mom's days are drawing shorter and shorter as her consciousness each day decreases. When she is awake she is mostly foggy, not sure if it's the drugs or the liver disease or her body slowly shutting down. But despite that, Dad, Jeff and I have all been able to have wonderful talks with mom in the past days expressing our love for her, telling her how much we will miss her, making sure she knows we aren't afraid of life without her. But beyond those few conversations there is much silence from mom. She is quite comfortable, but her body is so very tired. She talks a little and she drinks fluids some, and I was thrilled to get her to eat two Popsicles today after giving her pain medicines. Her breathing is starting to get heavier and more labored, she drifts in and out of sleep more now, and too weak to even stand. Her face is drawn tight for the most part but we can still draw out that classic Janice smile a few times a day, but only if we are goofy enough. So we treasure the smiles and just keep waiting.
There have been lots of tears shared between dad and I as the reality sets in deeper, but you must know how thankful I am . I'm thankful for these tender moments. I'm thankful for the last months and now weeks to learn to let go. Everyday I have to talk my emotional fingers into releasing their grip that is tightly clasped on mom. I'm thankful for Gods grace to give me 35 wonderful years that didn't end in a sudden stop but have wound down slowly. I'm thankful for the 10 months she fought so that she could be here for my brother and I. I'm thankful that soon she will take her final breath on earth and close her eyes one last time, and when she opens them again her body will be free. She will take a deep breath and realize that the battle is done, the fight is over and the cancer is gone, and the happiest of happy endings will find her in the arms of Jesus.