Those No Longer Here

It’s 11:25 pm on Christmas Eve.

Presents are wrapped and under the tree.

Mince pies are cooling on top of the oven.

The Christmas pudding is in the freezer.

Father Christmas has been and gone and the Small’s pillowcase (a tradition in my family) is bulging with presents and sweeties. The plate of mince pies has been consumed, the beer has been drunk and the reindeer have left bits of carrot all over the stoep outside (and a little bit inside, just in case the dogs decide they like carrot).

I have done my absolute best to make this a nice Christmas.

My heart is heavy and tears keep coming up unbidden behind my eyes. There is a physical ache deep inside my chest where my parents are supposed to be.

This is my first Christmas without my Mom. This is the first Christmas without her saying (over and over and over again) how nice the tree looks. This is the first Christmas without her giving me strict instructions on how to make the pudding, even thought I’ve made it by myself for the past five years. This is the first Christmas where I haven’t walked the earth trying to find the perfect gift for her. It’s the first Christmas I’m not going to here her saying “Thank you!” and really meaning it even though she has no idea what to do with said “perfect gift”.

This is my third Christmas without my Dad. He used to buy my present all the way back in November and be absolutely unable to wait to give it to me. So I’d get it early, knowing that it meant there’d be nothing from him under the tree. He’d leave something for me under the tree anyway, always “from Santa”.

I was reading through old Christmas cards. Mom hoarded them, seriously. There are some dating back to when she and Dad got married. I read through them when the Small and I were putting up the tree. Christmas is about family and friendship and love, and I was very strongly reminded of that, seeing all the names that, while not forgotten, had not been thought of in a while.

Gran, with your Scottish accent that I’ve never forgotten (And Granddad whom I never met).
Tony, my uncle, I’m sorry I don’t remember enough about you.
Grandmum and Granddad, who spoiled me rotten and always bought me dresses.
Kay, Fiona, Warren who ended their own lives far too soon.
Donny, finally reunited with the love of your life, Art after a decade parted by the Veil.
Muriel, my “surrogate grandmother”. You were taken from us so horribly. Bron and I miss you.
Jerry. Beautiful, kind, passionate Jerry. You were a good friend and an amazing artist.
Christy, my other uncle. I hope you and Mom and Tony are catching up on all those years.

There are too many, and others unmentioned. I love them all. I miss them.

But most of all, I honour my parents by keeping the spirit of Christmas in my home. I know it sounds horribly clichèd, and like something out of a Hollywood movie. But Christmas has always meant a lot to me. It meant so much to them. And I will keep it alive. Even though the memories clutch at me and the tears are so damn hard to chase away.

It’s how I honour those no longer here.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sarahnsh
    Dec 24, 2012 @ 23:34:54

    I’m so sorry that this will be your first holiday without your mother, and I think with the people we have lost in life it’s best to remember our best memories with them. I found this post o touching and I don’t think anything about it sounds cliched, just very sweet. Thank you for sharing and posting this. 🙂


  2. Happily Homeless
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 03:19:55

    What a beautiful tribute to your mom and dad, to all those who have gone beyond! Your words speak your heartache and your grief and your “missingness” of them.

    My mom died 16 years ago, just 6 months after my mom, and I was so lost for so long. That grief, and my seeking out of life, ultimately led me to found a non-profit called Tapestries of Hope, located in south central New Jersey. We offer bereavement support to women grieving the death of their moms/mother figures, and make connections that help us through all the milestones after. Though I travel full-time now with my husband, I’m still very actively involved with it and the daughters who belong and have made such strong friendships with many of them.

    I would never impose on your grief, but your words struck my heart and I wanted to reach out to you and invite you to visit our We also have a facebook page you can find at We have over 200 daughters who support one another through the grief into the healing and beyond that.

    From one daughter to another,
    daughter of Betty Catharine


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