Pieces of the puzzle

I’m learning that my life is analogous to a big jigsaw puzzle. All of the pieces are there, but not together. And to make it even more difficult, I don’t have a picture to go off.

Photo by Hans Peter Gauster
Photo courtesy of Hans Peter Gauster

You are helping me find the picture.

On Tuesday I wrote Moody blues, and shared that I’m trying to figure out why this time of year can be hard on me. I have this underlying anxiety that leads to headaches and not taking care of myself, and getting sick as soon as Christmas is over. I received a lot of feedback on that post.

I am always honored by the comments and support I get from my family, friends and followers. When a friend commented that her father died on Christmas morning, my first response was to comfort her and as I started typing my condolences, I remembered Christmas morning 1970.

So many other memories of that year came flooding back as well. That was a terrible year for my family. So much tragedy struck us, and it’s hard to find the right words to share it with you now.

A lot of my memories from the summer of that year don’t have much detail, more of just a sense of confusion, worry and sadness. I’m not sure what day it was, but my family received a phone call that sent my parents packing and quickly heading to Traverse City.

All I knew at the time was, my cousins had been in a terrible car accident. My Aunt Ruth and Uncle Dick had just lost their only daughter. Two of their sons were injured, one in critical condition, hanging onto his young life by a thread. My parents went to the funeral without us, and returned home in time to get a call. They headed back to Traverse City for another funeral.

Coping with loss
photo courtesy of Noah Silliman

Our family had experienced loss before, but this was more than any of us could fathom. It cast such a deep sadness over our family and became something most of us could not speak of. I was only 11 at the time, and it would take me years to fully understand the depth of that loss.

The day my oldest child was born, I held him in my arms and felt for the first time, the truly maddening pain my Aunt must have felt losing her children all those years before. How she survived that summer is still beyond my comprehension.

And then in early August 1970, we lost our mother. She had a heart attack and stroke one Sunday and was taken away by ambulance never to return. Our lives were changed forever and more heartache was yet to come.

Before my mother’s death, our family felt huge to me. There were so many of us, the house always felt crowded. We felt smaller after her death. I’m not sure how else to explain it.

Life keeps going, even after a death, so we kept doing all of the things we were supposed to do. School started and chores needed to be done. And before we had a chance to think about how we would be celebrating the holidays without our mother, they were upon us.

Picking up the pieces after our mother's death

I have no recollection of Thanksgiving that year, but Christmas stands out sharply. Somewhere around 5 in the morning, our father called my sister, Janet downstairs. He told her he needed her to drive him to the hospital.

What the doctors told us that day was something none of us were prepared for.


…to be continued.

Reader Comments

  1. littlemissw

    What a terrible, tumultuous time for you all. Have you ever had any counselling to deal with your anxiety? It seems you’ve had more than your fair share of difficulties and talking to someone could help.

  2. Trudy Callan

    Oh my! There are just no words. Too much for you all to have gone through. It’s truly amazing how you have made a wonderful life for you and your family in spite of everything. That is great that writing is helping you work through it all, even more so than counseling.

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      Thank you Trudy. It’s interesting, that when I was going through it, I didn’t know it was such a big thing. Not until becoming an adult and looking back, did I go, wow…that happened.

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