Two empty seats at my Christmas table
I am very thankful at this time of year for my wonderful family and friends. I feel truly blessed to share this holiday with my sweet mom and sister, my amazing husband, children and so many others. But there are always two special people missing at my Christmas table. I’m re-posting this (my first ever blog post!) in honour of them. When my oldest daughter read it, she cried for the aunt and grandfather she never knew. I’ve decided to share it here because it has shaped who I am today, how I view things and what I want this blog to be about – family, love and living life!
I was 14 when I truly understood the word cancer. My parents returned home from the hospital in Halifax, and my sister Kelly wasn’t with them.
She passed away in August of 1985; she was only 20 years old.
Growing up, I only knew that she had to go for many blood tests and occasional trips to Halifax to see a “special” doctor. I remember being disappointed when blood tests revealed my sister Linda and I were not a good “match” for Kelly; surgery to help her get better wasn’t going to happen.
Kelly was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 13, and lived many of her teen years in remission. But the leukemia reared it’s ugly head again while she was attending university, and she never returned for her third year.
As a parent now, I understand why my mother didn’t want to celebrate Christmas that year. I can’t imagine the pain my parents felt when they lost their first-born daughter. Our family was never the same again. Birthdays, holidays and family dinners just didn’t feel complete. Kelly was missing. The sister who loved children and babysitting never got the chance to have a family of her own. The sister who led me down the hall to sneak a peek at Santa’s gifts on Christmas Eve, was gone forever.
Many years later, our family was once again rocked by sudden and tragic news — my dad was battling a brain tumour. One day while golfing in Florida, he started acting dazed and confused. He went to the hospital, and tests showed he was living with a tumour about the size of a grapefruit. Surgery and radiation were not enough, and he died from an aggressive melanoma tumour in July of 2001.
My daughter was just over a year old; she met her Grandad, though she doesn’t remember. It breaks my heart that he didn’t live long enough to meet his two other grandaughters. And, it saddens me deeply, that after years of working so hard to support our family, he isn’t out right now on a golf course with Mom, cursing bad shots and my mother’s golf swing.
Cancer has taught me a lot. Even though the glass may appear half empty, we need to live life like that glass is over-flowing (Kelly was very good at that).
Love your family and friends deeply, and tell them so often.
And, do what you can to fight this horrible disease. There is some amazing cancer research happening out there….and the money we raise gets us one step closer to a cure.
I hope one day soon little girls will never lose a big sister to cancer, families don’t have to cancel Christmas, and children have the chance to bounce on their Grandad’s knee.
That is why I relay.