It was Nov. 2017, two days before Thanksgiving when I got the call. My mom was in the Hospital after suffering a brain aneurysm. My heart was racing, hands shaking and lungs tightening. I couldn't believe this was happening, especially before a Holiday dedicated to what we are thankful for.
When everyone else was at home eating turkey and taking selfies with grandma, we were eating sandwiches and vending machine snacks in the waiting room. On that Thanksgiving day, we stood next to her and said our goodbyes.
How was I supposed to celebrate Christmas now? How could I be cheerful and merry when I just lost my voice of reason, my caretaker and my best friend? I really thought this whole Holiday was going to be forever ruined for my family.
Thank god, I was wrong. My dad made it his mission for us to live our best life.
"Your mom brought us to where we are today, now is our turn to keep on living. Let's make her proud of the lives we choose to live," said Dad.
Those were all the words I needed to spark a flame in me. Now I'm trying my best to make every day, year and Holiday count. Nothing would make my mom more pissed, than me wallowing during her favorite time of year. I can picture her telling me to wipe my tears, get a glass of wine and dance the night away.
And that is what I did and will keep on doing!
These are my, "How to enjoy Christmas again", tips after losing a parent:
1. On Thanksgiving, make sure to talk about them and mention how grateful you are for how they were as parents. Although they are not physically with you, they will live in your heart forever. I know it sounds cheesy but it's calming to know their memory lives on.
2. Keep the traditions alive! My mom always loved decorating the tree as a family so why cancel it. Every year, I wait for my twin brother to be free from work, my younger brothers to come back from college and my dad to be in town to decorate our Christmas tree. And of course, it's not an official Chamorro family function without alcohol and music.
3. Plan an event just for the core family. On Christmas eve, instead of going to some big family party; my brothers, dad and I will stay at home this year. We want to have an intimate night where we can be together and reminisce on the memories that no one else has experienced but us. We will be wearing ugly Christmas PJ's, watching Christmas movies, making cookies and drinking"coquito" (the Puerto Rican eggnog). It will be a scene right out of a Hallmark movie. Although, my mom hated those "cookie cutter" movies, she would have loved our version of it.
4. Lastly, for New Year's, pick up a glass of champagne and cheers to them! Even though is another year without them in your life, you wouldn't be the person you are today if it wasn't for how they raised you. I give a lot of credit to my mom because she was so strong in many life changing situations such as, the death of her dad and surviving Hurricane Maria. And I think she passed down that resilient trait to me. A lot of people tell me, "I'm so proud of how you are dealing with this, I couldn't be so put together." Well, that's because of the strong and independent woman I look up to. So this New Year's Eve, I cheers to her!
I know it's easier said than done but it won't feel better unless you try. I'm not asking you to be Mr. or Mrs. Christmas, my first year wasn't like that at all. Yet, I motivated myself to show up for the Holidays and now I always look forward to it.