Christmas in the Beason house was always a big occasion when I was growing up. My mom, Pearl, loved the holidays. She would sing carols, decorate the house and buy way too many presents for our little home. You had to walk a path between the boxes just to sit on the couch! My mom instilled the love of Christmas in me as a young child in a really big way.
After I grew up I started decorating my own home and have been doing so for 28 years. To the average person, I decorate to the extreme. This year I’m planning over 55,000 lights shining bright and dancing to different Christmas songs. No doubt about it, my mom made an everlasting impression on me.
Pearl had a major stroke in 2004 and soon forgot my name. I took care of my mom every weekday that summer. We would go on walks strolling hand in hand and enjoy listening to the birds singing just for us. I told mom those birds were serenading her and it would always bring a smile.
Mom had dementia. The terrible disease was taking a heavy toll on her frail body and ever-so-distant mind. One day after she was released from the hospital, I took her back to the assisted living center. As we were driving, I realized she didn’t even know the color of the cars anymore and it was such a heartbreaking moment for me. Then, the radio started playing “Jingle Bells.” We sang that Christmas carol together as I held her warm hand. She knew every word. I turned off the radio and we sang all the Christmas carols I could think of. As tears streamed down my elated face, I felt I had my mom back for those precious few moments.
As time went by my mom continued to get worse. It was one of the hardest situations I have had to face. Watching my mother losing control of her body and mind was tough. At times I couldn’t bring myself to visit her. I felt guilty and ashamed, but seeing her wither away was making me sick. Working on my Christmas display year-round helped me cope with the pain and despair of my mom’s situation.
The first day of November in 2009 I started decorating for Christmas. I was off to a great start when two days later I got a call from my wife saying I needed to get to my mom immediately. When I arrived, Pearl wasn’t eating or drinking and looked so very frail. Hospice told the family that mom was dying. I watched her slowly leave us over several days. My mother’s color changed, her breathing slowed and her skin became cool to the touch yet she kept fighting for life.
My three sisters and I were spending quality time together and reminiscing about the old days. It was time we hadn’t found in over 30 years. I guess mom was hanging on so her children could get to know each other in a new way.
After eight days, I brought a Christmas song book into mom’s room. I leaned on her bed, took her cool hand and started singing. I’m sure I sounded terrible, but I knew she could hear me and I so wanted to make her happy. After twenty minutes I had to leave the room. Tears started to run down my cheeks. I thanked the Lord for all the love that my mom gave me. I was exhausted, but fortunate to share that precious time with her.
On November 13th, Pearl Beason went to heaven. She could sing and dance again. It was a heart wrenching, yet a joyful time. The songs “Silent Night” and “Away in Manger” kept playing in my mind that evening. A few days later we said goodbye and buried her next to dad. I no longer had any parents. What a strange and lonely feeling, yet I knew because of the way she had raised me, I could carry on.
I decided to build my Christmas display in my mom’s honor that year. I would build it while making memories for me and my family. At first, all was going well. Then I decided to rework the roof lights and climbed up the ladder with mixed emotions. As I started adjusting the lights, my emotions started taking control. I began crying and becoming frustrated. After a couple of hours, I was ready to give up and take down the display. I reached to tear the lights off the roof but stopped. I put myself in time-out for the rest of the evening.
It was a real struggle to set-up the display that year. I tried to put on a happy face, but it was really hard. One night I was fixing some lights on the bushes when I became sad and mad at the same time. Again, I wanted to tear down the display right then! I reached to start ripping the lights off the bushes, but stopped. I heard a little bird singing to me. I listened and smiled. I calmly went inside and watched “The Polar Express” with my family. We had a very special evening as I thought of the special gifts my mom had bestowed on me as a child and later as an adult.
I continued to work on the display. The lights came on two weeks later than usual. It was the hardest one to set-up in my life and on December 26th I ran it for the last time that year. With all lights on I walked through the yard singing Christmas carols to my mom and remembering all the good times I had with her. As I turned out the last lights I remembered my mom. She was a very special gift in my life.
After I kissed my kids good night, I got on my knees and said my prayers. I gave thanks for all the wonderful memories I had with my mom, Pearl.
Merry Christmas Mom!
This article was included in the November 2012 issue of PlanetChristmas Magazine.
By Michael Beason