Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)- Billy Joel
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At the end of a year such as this, marred by so much destruction, death and heartache as natural disasters rip through our lands and Covid-19 claims far too many lives and livelihoods…. it seems particularly insular to shed tears over our own personal tragedies. Please know, I mean no disrespect. That said, I am indeed going to focus on my own little world, because that is what I am, right now, grappling with most.
This week marks a sad anniversary for my family. Two, in fact. Actually, more. On the 20th December, 1984, my mother’s eldest sister Annabelle lost her long, hard fight to cancer, leaving in her wake a chain of broken hearts. I was only 2, and can’t remember her, but I know how deeply she was loved. She was only 38, her boys were young, and her husband would never be the same. Auntie Annabelle’s mother, who we affectionately knew as “Dawsy”, was rocked to her core. Even her faith was shaken. Mum felt sure she held a tenuous grip on her convictions purely in the hope of seeing her first born daughter again one day. Precisely 24 years later after losing Annabelle, Daws, too, left this world, gracefully, peacefully, in her sleep, but equally unexpectedly. “I’m sure she knew,” my mother said at the time. “I’m sure it was on her mind.”
Of this, I have no doubt.
This same week last year we found out we’d miscarried a little soul who would have been our third baby. She would have been 5 months old now. This would have been her first Christmas. Yesterday the girls and I were at my parents’ house racing around the house admiring the newly decorated tree and various adornments artfully placed here and there. Reina, a curious 6 year old opened the desk (we never open that desk) and found something silver and shiny. “Oooh mummy look, grandma forgot one!” A serene dove hanging from a crimson ribbon proclaimed it was ‘Baby’s First Christmas’. Reina beamed and hung it reverently on the front door knob. I understood immediately, long before mum explained haltingly, somewhat apologetically, that she’d gotten it earlier this year, in case it would be relevant…
To say I’m moved doesn’t quite cut it. But let’s just say I am moved, because this writer is tired and emotional. To know mum was open to that possible reality means much more to me than she would know.
Sad anniversaries at Christmas just feel that little bit more brutal than other times of the year. Christmas colliding with the loss of a loved one, or in my mother’s case, two incredibly special loved ones, has to be particularly burdensome. For me, Christmas is about coming together in love and appreciation for each other, just as we are. But some gaps can never be filled, and Christmas seems to amplify that inescapable truth.
Personally, I can’t imagine the pain my mother and extended family endured, losing her that way…and then Daws, suddenly, 12 years ago, catching us off guard. It touches and in some ways fascinates me, that my mother is able to feel so deeply, yet still so quietly and privately. Many would see mum on a difficult day and suspect nothing is amiss. She is warm, caring, thoughtful, beautiful, smiles easily and often. Yet when I see my mother on those days, though I see no tears falling, I feel them. I feel the lump in her throat as she takes longer than usual to respond to a simple question, or fixes her gaze just a little too long on some far off point of focus. My heart aches for the sadness she has had to endure. The two dear women she lost were both incredible mothers who left behind sons, daughters, and now grandchildren and great grand children they would adore, and who would adore them. We all miss them, and I know not a day goes by where their children don’t think of them. I like to think the opposite is just as true.
This rendition of Billy Joel’s ‘Lullabye’ is for mum, my family, and everyone who connects with this message. May we all find peace.