Tag Archives: Eileen Driscoll Campbell

A Christmas Album, Shared with Dad

Rainy Christmas morning, shared memories with Dad at the breakfast table …

1953, my sister Midge’s last Christmas…

brucemidgesnowman1953

Midge got a dolly

Scott got a rifle

christmasdinner1953

1954… brother Dean arrived on the scene…

christmas1954

1956 in Kingston, Ontario… Nana in the foreground (I’m still in Mom, about 3 months along)

Christmas 1956

1959… I’m on the scene, 18 months old, in our house on Old Spring Road in Kensington, MD

Christmas 1959Christmas 1959

Christmas dinner 1959

Dad at the head 1959

Probably 1960… brother Dean and I show off our snowman

Christmas snowman 1960

Christmas dinner in Everett, 1966

Christmas dinner, 1966

And our last family home in University Place (Tacoma), 1969

Christmas morning 1969

Cassandra Eileen Campbell 1969

By the tree, 1969

Christmas 1971… and man, was it the 70s!

1971 - big snow year

Sandy dressed for snow

Christmas dinner 1971

1973… Dad surprised Mom with the diamond wedding ring she never had, the ring I wear today

A diamond ring for mom

Gathered round on a Christmas Day, 1985

Christmas day 1985

Maddie had so much fun hunting a Christmas tree with Nana and Papa, circa 1991

Maddie Christmas tree hunting

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Remembering Christmasses Past

christmas eve

Growing up, Christmas was about much more than the presents, decorations or food. Certainly we had all of the trappings; I remember gently hanging silver foil “icicles” over the branches of our tree, and helping Mom to place on the mantle her collection of angel figurines on a bed of “angel hair” lit from below. But at its heart, Christmas was a religious observation.

My Mom was a devout Episcopalian. We went to church and Sunday school every Sunday, and if we were sick, Mom read the week’s lessons and prayer service at home. And Christmas Eve meant attending midnight mass, which actually used to be held at midnight. When I was very young, we attended the Washington National Cathedral (I think). I drifted to strains of “Silent Night,” snuggled against Mom’s silky seal skin fur coat, surrounded by votive candles and swags of fresh greens. That distant memory of light, music, smell and touch is about as close to heaven as I can imagine.

Through the years, the scene was repeated — at St. Mark’s in Seattle, St. Patrick’s in Eastmont (near Everett) and St. Andrew’s in Tacoma.

This is a different kind of Christmas Eve. My Dad and I will be at my house, but he is not strong enough to join in the festivities at my in-laws. Much less attend Christmas Eve service. My advisor Jim reminds me, “Each moment now, even the most gritty one, is precious.”

Mom, tonight you are closer to me than ever, though you have been gone for almost 14 years. Keep the candles burning for Dad. He is trying to find you.

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Singing Mama Home

In the initial weeks after my mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, I wanted to comfort her as she drifted in and out of lucidity. I remember sitting quietly by her bedside at the hospital, holding her hand. My first instinct was to try to sing to her since, all through my early childhood years, so many of my memories were accompanied by her singing. But confronting her impending death, I couldn’t sing. Each time I tried, I choked up.

Music was, and is, inextricably linked to my attachment to my mother. When I was a little girl, my mother would tuck me in and sing me our family lullaby, “Jesus Tender Shepherd.” She would turn out the lights, and leave the door ajar. Through the crack in the door, I heard the murmur of our settling household. But instead of sleeping, I often lay awake. After a half hour or so, I’d get up and tell Mom. Again she would sing,”Jesus Tender Shepherd,” turn off the lights, and leave the door ajar. Sometimes, there was a third or even fourth cycle before she became completely exasperated.

In my mother’s twilight moments, I wanted to bring that comfort to her. For several weeks, I continued to try to sing to her. And one day, I found I could do it. As agonized as I felt while watching her slow departure, I finally had the control to sing. I sang that childhood lullaby then, and later when we celebrated her life.

This past weekend, my ‘other mother’ completed her journey on this earth. The family, and those of us who are extended family, didn’t see it coming. But her medical setbacks turned from a trickle into a cascade, and finally into a flood that she could not overcome. And yesterday, I found myself by her hospital bed with my best friend and her sisters and brother, trying to find a way to comfort my ‘other mother’ as she did the hard work of letting go.

That afternoon, we had attended a vocal choir concert by the Adelphians of the University of Puget Sound, which they ended with their traditional finale, Stephen Paulus’ “The Road Home.” I started crying as I listened to the lyrics:

Tell me where is the road I can call my own, that I left, that I lost, so long ago?

All these years I have wandered, oh when will I know, there’s a way, there’s a road that will lead me home?

Rise up, follow me, come away is the call

With love in your heart as the only song

There is no such beauty as where you belong

Rise up, follow me, I will lead you home

After wind, after rain, when the dark is done, as I wake from a dream in the gold of day

Through the air there’s a calling from far away, there’s a voice I can hear that will lead me home.

Rise up, follow me, come away is the call

With love in your heart as the only song

There is no such beauty as where you belong

Rise up, follow me, I will lead you home

Hours later, reflected in the hospital’s dark oval window, we gathered around an unquestionably beautiful woman who had loved us, chastised us, teased us, cheered us, cried for us, and stood up for us. My best friend, her daughter and I sang “The Road Home.”

As I remember it, just as we finished, my friend’s sister noticed that something had changed. Mama’s hand felt different. Then she didn’t take that next breath. She was gone.

Our quiet vigil was interrupted by a rush of awareness, then panic and confusion. Filling the void came the impulse to sing. And what came to mind was the lullaby that my mother sang so often to me. This time, I could sing it, joined by my best friend. We sang Mama home.

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