Christmas – Rememberances – guest posts

Been spending my time with family and not with my computer.  It is a time of reflections.  I thought that this week I might share with our cancer blogging community some of those reflections.  Today we will look at people spending their first Christmas without that special loved one lost to their battle with cancer.


in just a few weeks i will be home with my family… and we will celebrate Christmas without papa…this is an idea that i thought i had gotten used to.. until i began, as most of us are doing now, shopping for gifts… i found myself picking things up to buy for my dad… then being hit.. yet again with the reality that he will not be there (when does this stop happening by the way? i am no longer in denial.. right? so why does this happen? i am really ready for that fresh feeling of pain to stop)… well over the weekend.. i really did buy a gift… i rationalized that i had bought it for my mom.. but once i got it home i had to be honest with myself in that i actually bought it for him… i called my brother… “is it weird to buy and wrap a gift for dad?” “not weird, just really sad”… we decided that he would open the gift… i find myself wondering how many years will we do this before we stop including him entirely?
on the subject of gifts i asked a question today… what was the best gift you were ever given.. and the answer had to be something tangible… we all love our families and appreciate the love we get from friends.. i had a hard time coming up with one… i appreciate everything i receive.. if someone gives you something it means they were thinking of you.. and that is what matters most… but.. in choosing i remembered how my cousin took me for a pedicure last year on my birthday.. it wasn’t just my birthday.. it was also the day of my papa’s wake… (more on that later)… i was happy to go.. especially because it meant i would spend quality time with one of my most favorite people.. but in getting there and being pampered… i was really able to relax… the massage chair worked out all the knots i didn’t know i had been building up.. it was such a release… papa was no longer in pain.. and as much as i ached for him.. i was able to breathe.. to let a little bit of it go and be flushed with the foot bath water…. if you know someone who has lost someone… yes the casseroles and plants are nice.. they are very appreciated… but concider giving the person a neutral place and time to let.. go…
Well we made it through our first Christmas without my dad. I am really proud of us – we made it through the day without any tears at all. We just wanted to make it a happy and fun day for the kids.

My nephew ended up with the stomach flu, so him and my sister left after opening presents. That was really sad for me, because it wasn’t the same without her there either!

My neice and nephew loved their memory bears. They were made out of my dad’s pants. McKenna at one point told me she was very sad because she missed her papa very much. It was very weird, and very out of the blue. But it makes me happy knowing she still remembers him and thinks about him.

Time heals but it doesn’t let us forget.  This blogger reflects on grief even as her young husband has been gone five years.  from Crash Course Widow
Grief is a weird thing over the years, particularly as the time gets longer and longer from Charley’s death. In the earliest years, it was easy to know how tough things could be and that I needed to be gentle with myself in making it through things like December, or going back to work. I had low expectations, and mere survival was the only goal. But as I’ve felt better in general over time and as the grief has, for the most part, ebbed away, I forget to make allowances for difficult things. Anna starting school and officially becoming a big girl; financially needing to go back to work; the holidays–they’re all big and potentially complicated things, regardless of being a single parent or a widow. But since grief, per se, isn’t a normal, regular part of my life now, I forget to keep watch for it, until I realize I’ve been a somewhat fearful, overwhelmed mess inside my head for the last couple of months.

Except it doesn’t really feel like grief, exactly. Instead I’m feeling the after-effects of it: the lethargy and uncertainty, the paralysis at times. And I’m too quick to dismiss it because it’s not as bad or as hard as everything was earlier in grief…but I forget to allow it its due, too, and that they are hard things.

So yes, we’re here. And I’m okay…just not as high or excited as I’ve been other years lately at Christmastime…or as I was two or three months ago. But our tree has been up for a week, Anna’s presents are wrapped, and Christmas shopping is done. What needs to get finished by Christmas Eve will get done as and when needed–and the rest, whenever.

And as much as I fear, sometimes, what needs to come next, I’ll be glad when December is behind us again and I can face the brand-new, clear slate of 2011…or at least a stretch of several months with nothing extra-loaded and difficult.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave bereft
I am not there. I have not left.
~ Mary Elizabeth Frye, 1932

About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.

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