It’s hard to imagine where the year has gone, but here we are, yet again, at the beginning of another holiday season. I have been fortunate in my life to experience a lot of joy and happiness during this time of year. I often sit and reminisce about holidays past and those special times I have shared with friends and those around me, but definitely welcome and cherish those fun times, especially when I think of my family.
Not long ago, actually just over four years ago in November 2013, our family experienced the passing of the matriarch of our family. This happened right before this holiday of thanks we call “Thanksgiving.” I remember when I got the news and how this made me feel. I felt as though cellular death or necrosis of the tissues of my heart certainly had begun and that my heart would eventually stop from the hurt and ache I felt. It was only through shedding many tears, looking through old handwritten cards, time passing, hearing her voice in voicemails, speaking with family and remembering her and her kindness towards me as my mother, that I was able to embrace a little bit of comfort for my aching heart.
This incident was a big transition for me and for our family. We had been so fortunate for so many years because we had experienced so much happiness and joy in being together as a family during the holiday season. When the happiness and the familiar setting we knew turned to heartache and sadness because of the loss of our mother, we had to ask ourselves, “What were we to do? Where were we to go from here?”
Fast forwarding to January 2015, I found myself in a beautifully decorated clubhouse speaking with family while on the verge of adding another member to our family. My father, in his heartache and loneliness, had decided to remarry and we were on the verge of having to accept another in place of our mother by his side.
At first, I found myself a bit confused and angry with my father for, what was, in my perception anyway, moving on so quickly. Through time, and because of the loving and kind person Kathi was, I found myself ever so grateful for her and coming into our lives. Her charm, wit, and humor are unmatched. Her calling and singing to me on my birthday was always such a blessing. Her love and talent for music are priceless. Her kind words and how she would make you feel so welcome and important are remarkable. And lastly, the warm embrace and the gentle kiss on the cheek that she would provide, when I would visit, always made a grown man feel like, well, a young boy coming home after being away for a long time only to experience the warmth, love and security that only a "home" can provide. It’s all of these things, amongst many others about Kathi, which I will always cherish and remember for the rest of my life.
So fast forwarding once again to this past weekend...I found myself on a plane headed to Boise to say one last goodbye to this sweet woman who had become a part of our family (only three short years earlier) before she passed from, what was diagnosed by her doctors as, “terminal cancer.”
As I sat by her bed and held her hand while she slept, being heavily sedated due to the pain she was experiencing, an array of thoughts and feelings went through my head. How could I express to her how much she really meant to me? How could I appropriately thank her for helping fill part of a void in our family? And how could I thank her for taking such good care of my Dad and helping fill his void as well?
So as I sat there with just Kathi and myself in the room, I decided to quietly verbalize all the reasons why I was so thankful for her and ended it with, “thank you, Kathi! I love you.” It was just after I said this that Kathi, even though she was in the state she was in, slowly opened her eyes, squeezed my hand, and said, “I love you too” and then closed her eyes once again and drifted off back to sleep.
It was after this experience, that if anyone else was in the room at that time, one might witness the gentle tick and tock of the clock on the wall...the peaceful sound of chirping crickets in the background from Kathi’s favorite sound machine on the nightstand next to the bed...or the quiet sniffling and whimpering of a grown man, now crying, realizing that he was provided with one last gift by hearing four simple words..."I love you too."
So during this holiday of thanks and giving, remember to value those times with your family and give thanks for everything you have. Everything in this life can be gone in an instant. It is times like this that I personally am reminded to strive to be a better person. I try to tell and show those around me, but especially my family and those I love, that I love them. And even though my heart aches once again due to the new void created by the loss of this amazing woman, I want to provide one last "thanks" to my second mother Kathi. “Thank you for coming into our lives. Thank you for all your love and support. And thank you for truly being A GIFT!"
We hope you all are safe, happy and healthy and, of course, spending time with FAMILY.
In loving memory of Kathi Kelly Nickell-Terry (1941-2017)
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