I would describe myself as an agnostic with an open mind. I grew up without any religious teachings. It was my father’s decision, and one I now understand he regretted greatly later in life when he came back to his faith. He was raised in a religious family, and even sought religious studies after high school. For reasons unbeknownst to me, he separated himself from the church in his twenties. After my brother and I were born, he was adamant that we not attend church. My mother always thought it was a great loss for us. She felt we had missed out on bible stories, family time, and a church community, as she had growing up.
I never felt a religious void in my life. I didn’t give it much thought until after my father died. I envied the certainty that those with faith had about life after death. They were sure that they would see their loved ones again. I envied the comfort it brought them. I wanted comfort as well, but had too many questions that can only be answered in death.
This past Thanksgiving was very difficult for me. My grief took me by surprise as Thanksgiving was not a holiday I celebrated with my family. I think it was the familiarity of my surroundings that made the loss of my mom so obvious. I was in Toronto for the weekend at my in laws. I went to visit a friend in my old neighbourhood, and walked through the trails of High Park to get there. I know every inch of that park, and have spend so much of my time there with my mom. She use to take us there to explore as kids, as she did with her grandkids. As an adult, I lived in the neighbourhood just east of the park, while my mother’s little house was nestled just west of the park. We would always walk the same route to get to each others house. When she was too sick to walk, we would drive through the park to see what had bloomed since her last visit.
October was also hard because of birthdays, and Halloween. My mom and I always loved Halloween, and she always had an idea for my girls for their costumes. This year my kids wanted to be gypsies. Years ago, my mom had gone to Tunisia. She brought back headbands for all my girls. They were brightly coloured, and had trinkets hanging from them. It would be the perfect addition to any gypsy costume. The only problem was we hadn’t seen the headbands in about a year. They were in our house somewhere, but when your house is a school, it can be hard to find lost items. I searched our local thrift store but couldn’t find a suitable substitute.
As much as I loved my visits with friends and family over Thanksgiving weekend, it was also filled with many tears as I walked the trails alone in High Park. After our dinner on Sunday, we returned home late Sunday evening. We had a lazy Thanksgiving Monday. Reya spent most of the day reading, while the other two played video games with Jess. I prepared for the following school day by baking and cleaning, with numerous breaks for crying. It was one of my lowest points since my mom died and I foolishly chastised myself for not being further along emotionally after 8 months.
I checked in on Reya, and noticed she was reading without her glasses, as she had left them in the car. I offered to get them for her as it was the only way they would get on her face. After retrieving them, I marched back to her room. As I passed the washroom, there was a loud and persistent jingling sound coming from the washroom. I assumed it was one of my kids trying to get my attention, so I ignored it and continued on my mission.
Once I left Reya’s room, I headed back to the kitchen. In the doorway that I had just walked through, lying on the floor, was the headband my mom had bought in Tunisia. I picked it up in disbelief, and shook it. It jingled, and jangled exactly as I had heard moments before when I passed the washroom. I rushed to ask Jess and the girls if they had found it recently and placed it in the hall, and no one had.
Those with faith will nod sagely, while all others will slowly shake their heads in disbelief. I am not telling you this story to change your beliefs. I am telling it because I will not be the only one in sadness this holiday season. I know many who have loss loved ones and this will be their first holiday season without them. I would have loved to have sat and told this story over a cup of tea to each family member near and far, and to each friend of my mom’s that held her dear. As my mom was loved deeply by many, I simply wanted to tell you before the holidays.