Tag Archives: Madeline 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

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dear God, You and I Need to Talk

Dennis Armstrong, the Sutter Hospice social worker who comes by after you’re 24 hours “in service,” asked me, “Does your father have a faith or belief system?”


godtalkstoyou.com

It’s complicated. You see, Dad says conflicting things. On the one hand, he says that he wishes he could believe in God but he doesn’t. On the other, he has talked about seeing Mom after he dies. And about how God let Mom down when she was dying. “I’m afraid,” she said at one point in her illness. If there is a God, Dad wondered, how could he abandon her in her moment of need? I’m sure he was also flashing back to losing my sister, Midge, to leukemia at four years old. He used to talk a lot about the pain of losing Midge. It’s even harder to understand God’s hand in that one.

My beef with God is different. I understand that it’s really hard work getting born into this world; I have the mental scars from back labor to prove it (thanks, Maddie). I don’t think it’s fair to work so hard to get out of it. Why do people have to become feeble and go through pain and discomfort before they make their exit? Did God figure that people would just hang around too long if it was pleasant at the end, and end up overpopulating the world?

I realize my own relationship with God is a little iffy right now. I usually talk to God when I go to bed. I thank Him for the amazing people and things in my life, and I ask him for what I want and need. Releasing Dad has long been a prayer of mine.

But I’m a little bit pissed off this morning knowing how tough things are for Dad right now. I’m working on it, God, but I really don’t understand how this is such a great plan.

An old family friend, Bruce Wheeler, shared a favorite Bible quotation of his: Rom 8:31 “If God is with me who can be against me?”

Are you with us God?

5 Comments

Filed under Faith journey, Uncategorized

Summoning Angels

Perhaps the worst losses are the ones that we don’t expect: the children who die before their parents, the young mothers or fathers whose lives laid ahead of them, the mothers we expected to be in our lives for so much longer.

With these premature deaths, we wail with no less intensity than the mourners of ancient Rome, albeit through all the ways that we communicate now. Whether poured out in text messages, or emails, on Facebook or by telephone, it is awful to behold, and worse to feel.

With the loss of my “other mother” in October, I find myself compelled to unpack some Christmas decorations that I haven’t displayed in years: my mother’s angels. Back in the 50s and 60s, my mother collected small angel figurines that she displayed on a bed of “angel hair” (spun fiberglass) that glowed from the string of tiny white lights beneath. Each was lovely, but one in particular stood out: a small girl angel, clad in pink, rosy cheeked, curly haired, head bowed, hands clasped in prayer.

Angels weren’t just a symbol of Christ’s birth to my mother; she had her own little angel in heaven. Before I was born, my sister, Midge, died of leukemia at the age of four. I don’t remember seeing obvious signs of grief in my mother or father during my childhood. But much later, after my mother died in 1999, Dad poured out his heart to me. He repeatedly slapped his palm against his forehead as he described her calling out to him from her oxygen tent in the hospital, “Daddy, help me.” “I couldn’t do anything,” he said, “I went out of the room and pounded on the wall. I couldn’t do anything.”

In the past few weeks, I have borne witness to and experienced that stabbing kind of pain that comes with unexpected loss: the continuing fallout from the death of a young mother to alcoholism, the sudden loss of a joyous and loving young father, and my “other mother,” Miss Ann.

My other mother’s family gathered to make her favorite foods and set the table just as she would have, harvest colored candles arrayed on her heavy brass serving tray. My friend who lost her childhood buddy to addiction wrote a eulogy filled with beautiful stories of her wit and strength. My friend who lost her brother, the young father, raises beers to him to re-enact the fun times when they met at the Whole Foods Bier Garten. These moments were nothing like scenes from a TV drama in which survivors look beautiful while they delicately weep in their time of grief; they were – and are – red-eyed, snot-riddled affairs where people try to do something, anything, to make a terrible reality less terrible.

In reliving traditions – even privately – we summon the people we have lost, the people we feel we should not have lost. Are we hoping that their ghosts will be with us as we go through our rituals? Do we imagine that they will be near as angels, hovering over our lives? I think my mother imagined Midge as an angel, captured in the likeness of the little pink-clad figurine.

Caroline Kennedy, who knows a few things about grief, devoted a chapter to death and grief in her lovely collection of poetry, She Walks in Beauty (Hyperion, 2011). Among the poems was this excerpt from “To W.P.,” by George Santayana:

With you a part of me hath passed away;

For in the peopled forest of my mind

A tree made leafless by this wintry wind

Shall never don again its green array.

Chapel and fireside, country road and bay,

Have something of their friendliness resigned;

Another, if I would, I could not find,

And I am grown much older in a day.

But yet I treasure in my memory

Your gift of charity, and young heart’s ease,

And the dear honor of your amity;

For these once mine, my life is rich with these.

And I scarce know which part may greater be —

What I keep of you, or you rob from me.

Those who lose someone too soon know what it means to grow older in a day, and to feel robbed by the loss of someone who died before we were ready. As I pull out my mother’s angels, one by one, I call her: “Mom – whether you are angel or ghost – be with me.”

1 Comment

Filed under Faith journey, Uncategorized