photo by bryan oller

We had a great Christmas.

The tree was up, the lights were lit. Presents were ready. Your mom was here.

The grandchildren toasted you on New Years. They told me over and over again how much they miss you, how they don’t like it that you died the way you did. On Sunday morning one stopped eating her breakfast and just sat there silently, and when I mentioned that she seemed sad and asked about it, she left the table. Her sister said quietly, “she misses Boka.”

Everybody was home. I made your favorite foods. Even the beef roast at Christmas had turnips fixed the way you like them. No one cared really, but I did, and I knew you would have liked them cooked that way.

I bought my own presents this year, and they never got put under the tree. That was hard. And sad.

I even got one for you, the best one I could come up with: to get your mother here and make her feel welcome in our home again this holiday and to love her as you would have loved her: to take care of her, see after her feet, help her with her bath, spend time with her, listen to her stories and reassure and comfort her. It was a great joy for me to be with her.

I shared with her what I thought would matter the most: your childhood and family pictures in the album she had made so many years ago. I found her looking through it again and again over our week and a half together. A family picture album of ours. All of the condolence cards, the whole basket of them, filled to the brim. Mostly from your friends. Telling us how much you meant to them.

I told her how grateful I am that she raised you so well. How fortunate I was to have had you in my life and how much I miss you. We cried quiet tears together.

Always humble. Always cheerful. Your mom. Just like you.

You would have loved the way the girls played and asked questions of your mom, following her from place to place. And she read them a story at bedtime, taking her time with them and answering all their questions, just like you.

It was painful saying goodbye at the airport. Very painful.

You should have been here.

It would have been better. Perfect, I’d say.