The Visit


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.


16 thoughts on “The Visit

  1. Alysa, something similar happened to me after my Mum died three years ago. I know she made it happen and was telling me she will always be at my side. Time helps the pain, but you will always miss her and wish you could have one more chat and one more hug. Celebrate having had a wonderful Mother this Christmas… Merry Christmas to you and the family we will vidualize you on Xmas morning in front of a roaring fire in your wonderful ‘great room’. Veronica

  2. Alysa, this is such a lovely story. Thank you for sharing. i’m going through an intense period of grief right now too. last year on this exact day my Dad’s year long health struggles took a turn for the worst (he was dignosed with stage 4 lymphoma,) and he died 12 days later, the day before Christams eve. needless to say, Christmas last year is a total blur, so this one feels like the first real one without him. It helps to know that others are going through the same thing, and it sure makes it easy to remember the important things this time of year! Big hug to you. Xo jenny

  3. So glad you shared this experience Lys, I have a fab vision of Jane hanging in your bathroom jingling the head band and then watching you walk right on by; she gets a wee sparkle in her eye and then drops the headband where you won’t miss it. She’s quite pleased with herself now! You are so loved on both sides – here and “there”. XOXO

  4. So beautiful, Alysa! Wow. I’m also having a hard holiday season- the first one that I haven’t escaped to another country for since loosing my Mama. Thinking of you. xo

  5. A beautiful post my friend. Sometimes we are given what we need at the exact moment we need it. I see Liam in the world all the time but particularly on those days I miss him most. When I ask for him to help me through the sun pops out, I see a sun dog, a hummingbird or Monarch shows up out of no where. Is it just me looking harder? Or is it him? Sometimes it just is and it feels good to let it be…Stace XOXO

  6. Alysa, I was moved by your story. While I don’t believe your mother could have found that headband for you, I do believe that God does things like that to provide comfort and also to get our attention. To get us thinking about Him.

    I don’t know why your dad turned away from his faith – although I have a theory – but my faith is strong and growing steadily. I have absolutely no fear of death and what’s beyond, because I know what’s waiting there for me. I look forward to seeing my father and mother some day. At this time of year I often think of my father because he died one week before Christmas, 43 years ago. That memory is particularly vivid when I think about next year, when I’ll be the same age as he was when he died. But again, no fear. God has promised only eternal goodness if we put our faith in Him and accept His gift.

    I’d be glad to share my faith with you and try to fill in the gaps. Just let me know.

    Love, (uncle) Ken

  7. Thank you for sharing Alysa. Such a hard time and those tears are needed. We humans can love so deeply and there might not be enough days left in our lifetime to truly heal from such a loss. But it does get a little easier with time.

    Love, Shell

  8. I loved your story Alysa. Just knowing your mom is close by in that way must be a real comfort to you. I don’t think that a parent’s death gets any easier, or you miss them any less with time. However, as each day goes by, it does make it a little less painful. Have a wonderful Christmas.

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