It's been a week since I've last published a blog post and not much has happened... EXCEPT CHRISTMAS! Christmas is a holiday that takes place on December 25th. It's a holiday that not everyone celebrates but the ones that do celebrate differently. For our family, it's shifted and changed over the years into something completely different than what it was when I was a toddler.
As a toddler, you don't do much except play with toys, eat food, and sleep. I wasn't much different. Every holiday, my family and I would gather around in either Chase, Ladysmith, or Maple Ridge (three places in British Columbia). My mom and dad would dress my sister and I in identical attire as the adults would oooh and ahhh at our curls, chubby cheeks, and bright young eyes. Holidays were a time of love, gift giving, and family.
I remember the first time that changed. It was when my papa passed away on December 8, 2005 just minutes before my moms birthday. Our family was devastated. But we understood that he was elderly and he had lived a long, long life. It was the first Christmas where I really felt like I needed to do the supporting instead of my parents supporting me.
Before I continue this story, I must back up a few years to the beginning of my life to paint you a picture of my aunt. As a young toddler, I did all the things a young one would do: I played with toys, I ate food and I slept. But I also adored my aunt. Throughout my childhood, this was the woman that took our family on trips like Christmases on cruises, to Disney World, and to beaches. She was the aunt who I awaited visits from because she would always fill entire a room with her smile, glow, and a full, happy heart. She taught me more about loving and giving than anything else. One could say that I saw her through rose-tinted glasses but I just say that I saw her with my eyes wide open.
In the fall of 2007, my aunt began her treatment for ovarian cancer. I remember thinking that it was just a small blip in the road and that she’d pull through it because she was the strongest woman I knew. In the spring of 2008, doctors declared her cancer-free and she began planning her trips again. Sadly, as many cancers do… it came back and deteriorated her life rapidly. But she fought to live for us even till her last day.
On December 17th, 2008, Marjorie Gabrielson passed away from cancer surrounded by her family and loved ones. I remember it was a Wednesday. I also remember that we had taken the ferry back from the island on Sunday. I remember when I said goodbye to my aunt. I begged my mom to let me stay. I told her school didn't matter. But she looked me in the eye and told me she'd be waiting for me the following weekend for Christmas on the island. I remember it was a Wednesday. I was sitting on the computer when my dad walked in the room. I don't remember what he told me but I remember not crying. I almost tried forcing tears out of my eyes because crying seemed like the right thing to do but the tears wouldn't come. So I picked up the phone with Sarah and we called our best friend, Ali, and sat on our bed and told her what happened. It was then that I cried because I realized that my aunts love was bigger than me, my sister, my mom, or my cousin. Her love reached passed my family and sank into the hearts of everyone she touched. Ali, Sarah and I sobbed on the phone together and that was the last thing I really remember well until Christmas on the island.
It was an unorthodox, sad, and slightly disorganized Christmas that year. We stayed in her house on the island with her daughter and husband. But there were so many people dropping off food, gifts, and flowers that I couldn’t tell who was staying and who was leaving. The one thing that I do remember is that my mom was right. She was waiting for me at Christmas on the island. I felt her presence everywhere and at Christmas, through the sadness, she was there.
Sadly enough, when we arrived home on December 27th, we discovered that our entire house had been robbed. We didn’t really care about the clothes, electronics, or furniture. We mostly cared about all the photo albums and jewelry that reminded us of Auntie M that had been stolen. But the robbery and her passing made us look at 2009 as a new start. Yes, winters were hard after that year but as a family we always got through it and every year, she was with us.
The most important lesson I’ve learned from watching my aunt since I was a toddler is that happiness is watching the people you love be happy. My Auntie M was one of the most selfless, loving people I know. She is and always will be my number one role model.