It would be the Christmas of 1996 that I remember most, the first Christmas without my mother. She died on November 7th, that same year, after a two-year battle with lung cancer. She had smoked for 52 years when the cancer started in her lung. It eventually spread, eating away at her spine, pelvic bone, sacrum and pancreas. By August that same year, her condition had deteriorated, she was walking with the aid of a cane, and her pain had become fairly intense.
I will never forget the late summer evening that year when I went over to my parents’ house for a visit. After dinner, when her pain was usually at its worst, my mother walked into the kitchen and summoned me to follow. She wanted me to look at the J.C. Penney catalog on the kitchen table. She opened to a particular page, pointed her finger at a certain cappuccino machine, and asked, “Is that the one you want for Christmas?” I was momentarily stunned, wondering how she could think beyond her own pain to concern herself with what I might want for Christmas, especially not knowing if she would even be around to celebrate the holidays. Despite my emotion, I managed a smile for her sake and said, “Yes.”
It wasn’t until after I left my parents’ house that summer night and got to the end of their street that I started crying. While driving home that night, I realized that there is nothing stronger, more beautiful and more determined than a mother’s love for her child.
Eventually the inevitable came and my mother died three months later on November 7, 1996. As my father and I sat together without her on Christmas morning, I wept uncontrollably as I opened my last gift, the cappuccino machine.
Written by Susan
Copyright 1996, All Rights Reserved
Published in the Tahoe Daily Tribune and the Nevada Appeal (Carson City)