I Will Honor Christmas

Yesterday was one of the worst days I have had since you have passed. I did not wake up that way, I did not go to sleep that way the night before, I did not wake thinking about you as I have so many other days. I woke feeling light and joyful in my heart.

You know that Kristina and I do not have a large home. It is a blessing and a curse. A curse because when we are all in it, it can feel even smaller than it normally feels. A blessing because you cannot fill a small home full of unnecessary things, there simply is no where to put them. I know it will not always be this way for us and for now we will survive. Kristina and I are also not big decorators. Our home is a representation of our shared love of traveling. Most of the space is covered with pictures we took, of places we have been. Collecting memories not things. We have very few things (at least we think that until we have to box them up to move them someday.) Long story short we came to this marriage with minimal Christmas decorations. Primarily because we are minimalist and primarily because neither of us had the space or need to go nuts with it.

Last week I woke up with the insane desire to decorate for Christmas. This would be hard for two reasons. As mentioned above…space and contents. We did what we could with what we had and I went out on an adventure to fill up the rest of the space. That desire is not something I ever had and the need to do it was just as unfamiliar as the desire. When you passed we hurriedly worked through the bulk of your things, and anyone who knows you would know that a majority of them were Christmas things. Your Christmas always had a theme, owls, Santa’s, angels…and since none of them felt like me, I only took a few of the things that I felt had true sentimental value to you. The things that I did pick out though, of my own, had you written all over them, as if you willed me to grab them.

If you had had your way, you would have left Christmas decorations up all year. They brought you so much Peace. Very few things did, but having your Christmas out was one of them. You loved the quiet moments in the morning just staring at your tree. Dee Dee put one of your trees up in your room shortly before you passed. I am not sure if you were aware or not, but I hope it brought you peace.

So yesterday morning, with joy in my heart and lightness in my being, I made my coffee, turned on all of our Christmas lights, turned on the Christmas instrumental playlist, sat down to have a moment in my own personal Christmas space and just like that, the loss, the absence of you was felt as profoundly as I felt it the night I watched your body leave your home. It was that painful, it was that gut wrenching, it was that final. And the rest of the day was like this, until I got in bed.

Half of a strand of lights burnt out and it became my mission to find replacements. Like a maniac, that mission turned in to a visit to every single store in town that carried Christmas lights only to find that none, not one, carried what I needed with a white cord. Every light in this God forsaken town has a green cord. 9 stores later with more decorations, groceries and other household supplies that we probably didn’t need, I returned home not having the one thing that sent me out in the first place. I felt defeated. Beaten. Lost. I sat through lunch, half choking it down, half almost gagging on it because I could not stop crying. My first holiday without you was approaching and I was a pile. I lost count of the number of times you said “this could be my last Christmas.” I lost count of the number of times Sister said, “oh she always says that.”

What I realized happened yesterday is how much I have put off grieving you. In trying to honor you, in trying to live a life I thought you would be proud of, I forgot the process I was going through of reconciling the loss of you. Instead what happened was a torrent wave of grief and realization that this will be my first holiday as an orphan. And Dee Dee and Jarod’s. We will never spend another holiday with you or Dad. Even though I had known this when you passed, it is an entirely different feeling as the first holiday is approaching. I thought I was prepared but I was not.

The day we decorated was a hard day and I fully suspect there will be more of them to come. Everyone who has experienced loss knows what I am talking about and can speak to it. If they don’t, good for them, but I promise you they take it for granted, because we all do. Time is the one thing we think we have an infinite amount of. Funny…it is the exact opposite.

I suspect in my heart I knew last Christmas was your last as did you. It was about the worst you had ever looked in your life and trust me, there were some bad times. This will be the hardest Christmas of my life. But I hope that by doing something I have never done before that I will feel you.
In the twinkle of the lights.
In the silence and stillness of the morning.
In the Christmas music I hear.
In the beauty of a snow fall.
In the giving of the gifts.

In by honoring Christmas in my heart, and trying to keep it all the year.


One of the most interesting things about grief or loss (of any kind) is how quickly we lose ourselves. How quickly we forget who we were BEFORE the change…before the loss…before the moment that forever changes our course. And then you have to walk through the passage where you ask yourself if you ever really truly knew who you were BEFORE the change…before the loss…before the moment. I saw this statement and had to re-read it multiple times then and even now, I continue to have to re-read it because it represents so many things for me.

As a society we have done a lot of work, a tremendous amount actually, to negate the importance or validity of any form of mental illness. From the smallest amount of “normal” depression, to clinically severe diagnoses, we have minimized it, made people feel less than because of it, made them feel like it is literally “all in their head,” that they do not have what it takes to “deal” with it and that it is not a legitimate illness and you should just throw pills at it. I will never forget the people who said these things about my Mom. To her face, to my face. I will never forget the Dr’s who did just that, threw pills at it. I had one Dr. tell me that in order to treat her anxiety, he would have to sedate her. She spent her entire life living in this space. This space of constant excavation because of what she was told and who said it to her. This place that was really incredibly uncomfortable and the only way she could really deal with it was to be empathetic to others in all the ways that she could think of while all along the way she was wishing, praying, someone would return that favor. She spent a lot of time digging and shoveling piles and piles and years worth of dirt trying to find herself. She was exhausted.

This sentiment struck a chord with me because it is literally the first place I went after the shock wore off. Who am I now? What will become of me? Who was I before she left? One of my favorite authors says that to figure this question out you have to go to the place of immense pain, the place that makes you the most uncomfortable and it will be there that you find this answer. That place for me is how we treat mental illness. Stress, depression, sadness, anxiety, the list goes on. I am disgusted with how we treat this and anyone suffering from it. I am in a pretty big depression myself at the moment. And the world would say, that’s understandable, you lost your mother. But the world is also dishing out some pretty depressing stuff this year OUTSIDE of that loss, so whatever tools I had in my arsenal to deal with and process it are gone out the window. It is unchartered territory out there right now. We have to do better. We have to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins before we can possibly think we have any right to pass judgement.

I hope wherever she is, the excavation is over. For me…I am beginning the unlearning.


According to Webster gratitude means simply, the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Since the beginning of March the world became a less grateful place to be. And I mean all of it. Not just the USA. Which is currently a giant uncontained dumpster fire. This is not about the giant dumpster fire going on outside right now though.

One of the things my Mom loved to do, more than anything in the world, was to send people handwritten cards, notes. To celebrate holidays, birthdays, births, weddings, babies, loss, you name it, she celebrated or consoled her receiver. Some of you were probably lucky enough to receive them. If you have a particular memory of one or something my Mom may have written you, feel free to share. Those stories help me heal.

I am not sure when she stopped sending cards but my Sister and I found an entire tote full of them when we were going through her things, just waiting to be written…so I know in my heart had she felt better, they would have never stopped.

As a way to honor her, I have started writing letters myself. They are being sent to people I am grateful for. People who have changed my life in one way or another. Maybe you taught me a lesson, maybe you were there for me at an important moment, maybe you meant something to my parents or siblings…I don’t know who it will be or why or when the inspiration will strike me, they come as they come. But one of my “steps” in healing has been to embrace this. To let her come through me in that process and carry on something that was extremely important to her. To walk a mile in her moccasins. In the day and age that she was writing them we did not have the technology we have today so she NEVER knew unless she ran in to you in person, if you had received the note and how it made you feel. I have the luxury of realizing when someone gets mine and it will help me heal greatly, knowing they know that at that moment I was thinking about them.

When you are sad, when you are down, when you feel lost, the easiest thing in the entire world to lose is gratitude. Because honestly, you have to really dig to find the those things when you are in the pits of grief. It is not easy to find them. I am hoping this will help. I am hoping that I start becoming a better human being and showing it. Not just to people I love, but to the Earth, animals, people a lot less fortunate than myself.

The world became a different place while my Mom was dying. I came out of the moment, that loss, into a completely foreign land. Quarantine. For 9 months I have been working from home, barely doing much besides getting groceries or supplies. I am in need, desperate need, of human physical connection, I think we all are. But I have MAJOR anxiety when I do go out in public, not because I have to wear a mask, I will do my part. I have anxiety because I have seen very few people since my Mom died. I have only talked to people technologically. Yesterday I had to run to the store and I ran in to a young man I went to school with. We were not friends per se, but friendly, grew up in the same town. Our mothers were both well loved. He said “Hi Tiffany, how are you?” I said “I am OK how are you?” “OK” he responded and we moved on because you know, germs, too close, not six feet away move move move. I was rounding a corner and he hollered back, “Tiffany,” I turned back and with the most sincere look I could see in a humans eyes behind a mask, he said, “I just wanted you to know I am so sorry about your Mom. I know she meant a lot to you.” I said “thank you, that means a lot to me, and I know you understand what this feels like, having lost your own Mom.” He said “no Tiffany, I do not, I do not know what you feel like, because I still have my Dad. And I am just really sorry about all of it.”

Why was that important? Because he is the first human I have seen outside since it happened that has stopped me and said this. I was grateful for this exchange. I expressed my gratitude in that moment, telling him how much it meant to me that he stopped me to acknowledge this thing, this brutal horrible thing that has completely devastated me. He was right, he could not possibly know what it feels like to have the two people responsible for giving me life gone. I did not let him go though without expressing my gratitude and that, that I think is a huge step in the direction of healing. Saying thank you in the moment you mean it.

Three Different People

As simple as this statement is, elementary rather…there are certain moments in your life that this becomes more profound than others or when you truly really are met with this concept. And its life changing when you realize this.

Reading this makes me immediately think of the little girl who REALLY HATED dresses and REALLY LOVED farm animals, cowboy boots, Glen Campbell, riding in Dad’s tractor stuck up inside the tiny corner behind his seat, playing football and riding my motorcycle.

And then I think of the determined little girl who became a fiercely determined young lady on a mission to prove everyone wrong, who packed what I owned and headed North to what would become some of the best days of my life, who broke her back and with that lost every single solitary sense of who she had become or wanted to be, and headed home where it all began to help take care of her Mom who got violently ill after her own Mother had passed and who would spend the better part of the next 18 years taking care of this sick Mom.

And then I think of the becoming. Who I am destined to be now. Where she is going to go now.? What will become of her now? It is with great trepidation, fear and excitement that I head out on this journey. We do not always like what we learn about ourselves along the way. But here I go…

A Mile In Her Moccasins

This past March my Mom left my world. She quietly disappeared before my eyes. Barely speaking, barely bestowing any final words of wisdom with which to live whatever would be left of my own life. Shortly before she left the hospital for the very last time, I drove down first thing in the morning to be with her so I could have some one on one time with her. Without her husband, without her Dr, without nurses, social workers, my siblings, her siblings, without anyone. Just us. I clearly did not know that moment would be one of the last moments we would have together alone. She asked me if I was happy, if Kristina and I were OK. She asked me to be more understanding of the boys and this stage of their lives, (different when you are the parent versus the grandparent I guess.) She asked me to find a job that made me happy instead of angry all the time. She told me she was not scared of dying, she was scared of leaving us. She asked me if she got on Hospice could she still go and do things if she had the energy. She recited her bucket list of places she wanted to see before she left, “the lake” being at the top and Bella’s wedding. She asked if she would be in pain, what would happen, how it would happen, to which I had no answers, I had never done this before either. I remember telling her maybe she would feel better if she could get off of all of these drugs. I said that I had no idea how I would live without her. She said I would, that I would just know to get on with my life. That she would be with me always and that she would go on all of our trips with us whether we wanted her to go or not and she would be right on top of here…pointing to my head. She said I had been her angel here on Earth…how lucky she was to have had one. And that she would be mine in Heaven…she owed me that much. That is was OK to go and take care of myself now, my work here was done.

I did not remember this moment we shared until recently. It is funny how much grief takes from you, memories are usually the first thing. They come back if you give them time. They return if you give them space. They show up when you are ready.

The beginning of the first week of hospice was a piece of cake. Later in the week was the “turn.” A grief counselor visited the first week, my Sister and Aunts also present. She visited with Mom briefly, but Mom was very weak and very tired and had a hard time opening her eyes but was listening very intently. I had expectations of how this whole process was going to go. And it went nothing like that. None of the brochures they gave me prepared me, nor did the guidance of others who had been through it themselves. It did not prepare me because my Mom did not follow “the script.” She did everything in the brochure that said would take days, sometimes in one day. She spoke very little. But on the day the counselor visited she asked my Mom what she wanted her legacy to be. Mom rocked back and forth in her chair and simply said kind. I want them to be kind. To show kindness.

When I was a little girl and I judged someone or something for whatever reason, probably out of jealousy, my Mom would simply say, “walk a mile in their moccasins Tiffany.” And of course the first time she said it, I envisioned real moccasins, and thought this was a silly concept. And she explained, (to a youth who was really not understanding) but clearly I was listening because I can recall the conversation as if it just happened. I giggled and said no one wears moccasins Mom. And she said, that is what you think. One day Tiffany you will understand. You will understand that we have no idea what someone is carrying, how heavy that load or that burden is, or just because you think you see what someone has, it does not mean they got it easily, that they deserved it or even wanted it. She said that statement a lot throughout my life. Walk a mile in their moccasins Tiffany. I was much older when I realized what that actually meant…put yourself in their shoes and walk their journey if you want to understand. It would be the secret to learning how to truly be kind.

While the only journey I can walk is my own, I do know that without this lesson I do not believe I would have understood what she really wanted her legacy to be. How I could truly honor her life, in life and in death. I could do this by simply walking a mile in her moccasins. My Mom’s life was filled to the brim. Her cup runneth over. There was joy, there was peace, there was harmony, there was enormous pain, self doubt, fear, loathing and debilitating anxiety. Despite all of that, there was always kindness. To everyone. Never herself. But to everyone else.

In order to understand my Mom’s life, I have to first take a really deep hard look into my own, because after all, without her, there is no Me. That is what this page, this blog, this journey is about. Finding me. While walking a mile in her moccasins.

My deepest hope is that by sharing this I can begin to heal. Not just from this profound loss, but a lot of other things as well. I can learn how to be kind to the most important person in my life. Me. And maybe just maybe it will help someone else on the way.

Welcome to A Mile In Her Moccasins…