Acknowledging Last Wishes (Part 1)


Acknowledging Last Wishes (Part 1)

imageAs a caregiver, my mind sometimes goes to the unthinkable. "What if this is our last Christmas with Mom?" Am I making her last years memorable? In 2013, things were too chaotic. Not only did we host the holiday at "my" home, but I was also the only one who cared for my mom on and around the holidays. The morning routine is maddening but add holiday hustle and bustle?...I vowed we wouldn't do that again. My motto was to keep the stress level down.

For 2014, I did not want to host the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day festivities. We decided to visit others instead. We decided to exchange very few gifts but more importantly wanted to spend time with loved ones. We stayed local to keep things simple given Mom's caregiving routine. This holiday season we focused strictly on love.

I didn't imagine our holiday plans would change the way they did.

December 23rd: My sister (who was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer) was admitted to a hospital. The hospital is 400+ miles away. She was admitted because her white blood count was low as a result of chemotherapy completed the previous week. As a precaution, she was admitted to an isolation room in the critical care unit.

December 24th: We carried through with our holiday plans locally hoping for the best with my sister's condition.

December 25th: My sister started to take a turn for the worse. I made the decision to bring Mom to Maine to "cheer up" my sister.

December 26th: We arrived at her bedside in Maine. We learned she would not make it home again. I spoke to her before she became non-verbal and we surrounded her with love. When she could no longer open her eyes, I asked her often to send us signs because we needed to know she was still with us. She was selfless and walked with all of us on our darkest days.

December 28th: She passed away peacefully with us by her side.

The purpose of my writing TODAY is not to recap all of the details but to tell a story. You see, it was INDEED the last earthly Christmas for my sister. She wanted no presents, she created a presence. On Thanksgiving, she told me she wanted nothing more than to have all four of her kids in a room interacting with one another the way they did before their lives got too busy. I shared this with the kids days after Thanksgiving and the one son who lives 10 hours away decided to go home for Christmas not knowing just how timely the visit would be.

On Christmas Eve, the kids (ages 28-40) were all in her hospital room, telling stories, laughing, and interacting with each other and their Mom. My brother-in-law, keeping family traditions alive, dressed as Santa, nuzzled in and gave their "Mommy" the most precious kiss. Such authentic moments for all of them. They captured the moment in photos and captioned it "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus"

December 29th (four days AFTER Christmas and a day after my sister passed): My mom, two of my nephews' wives and I were at a local restaurant. We were speaking about my sister's grandchildren and some difficulties they were having in their personal lives. Out of nowhere, we heard the chorus of "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus!" I listened closely as there was a great deal of noise in the restaurant and couldn't hear the rest of the song, it was as if someone turned off the radio. I remarked, "I can't hear the music." One of the "girls" stated, "Aunty, That wasn't the radio; the woman sitting at the next table all alone belted out the chorus and just as suddenly stopped singing." When I looked around, there was a lone older woman with bright red hair and a bold pink top waiting for her friends to arrive with their food order.

With tears in our eyes, we know my sister was acknowledging our conversation and her presence with us, as well as reminding us how her "Christmas wish" was granted and how much it meant to her.

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What a beautiful story and a priceless photo. What a blessing it is to have memories of these wonderful moments to hold close to your heart. Reading this and seeing this brought fullness to my heart, a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. \r\nMy deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to you. I know the heartache of losing a sibling. I lost my brother to cancer 13 years ago (he was only 39). I am so very sorry that you have to join our \"club\". There are certain moments in time that I still experience the burning pain of his absence so strongly that it feels like he died only yesterday. Precious memories like the ones you shared are an enormous comfort to me during those times. \r\nTo very, very loosely paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five): When a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. We can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. We can see how permanent all the moments are, and we can look at any moment that interests us. It is just an illusion we have that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.\r\n\r\nMy blessings to you and your family. My your higher spirit hold you close in the days ahead and may you find every comfort in your precious memories of your loved one.


Oh, my. What a photo!!! What a treasured moment in time.\r\n\r\nAnd, what a story! Your sister lives around all of you. I have a feeling she'll remind you of that from time to time.\r\n\r\nMy sympathies to all of you. I can only imagine the heartache of losing a sister. I'm so glad you could be there for her and for hers.

Lillie Fuller

The most perfect gift ever! I'm so sorry for your loss, but glad she let you know she was happy! What a blessing that was!


That is a beautiful story. Moments like that are so precious. I'm so sorry that you lost your sister, but glad that you could be there for her at the end and that she was surrounded by love.