Big Shoes to Fill in a Coveted Family Space

Joeli, still incredibly innocent and full of love and light, told me this past weekend she was ready to put up the Christmas tree. During our discussion, she said, “I think I want to put it up on the 29th.”

family decorating Christmas Tree

I smiled, looked at her with tears filling my eyes, and asked her why the 29th. 

She said she didn’t know, she just thought the 29th sounded like a good day.

“Do you know what November 29th is? Who’s birthday it is? 


I glance at Colby in the kitchen from my spot on the couch, and give him a smile and a nod, I know I can’t say the words out loud without crying. 

He explains for me…

November 29th is DotDot’s birthday. Every year on her birthday, she would pull out her Christmas tree and decorate it. So, we think it’s great that you want to decorate our tree on the 29th.

My mom loved Christmas and everything about it.

family Christmas elves

Joeli looked and me and just exclaimed, “I didn’t know that! I didn’t know the 29th was DotDot’s birthday!”

Again, I just looked at her and smiled; tears now streaming down my face. 

DotDot was Joeli’s name for my mom. We never understood why she called her that, but she did and my mom loved it. 

But, this is just the latest in an ever-growing lists of breakdowns recently. 

The holiday season is the hardest. Although, right now, being in this season of life of becoming a grandmother soon myself, this one is especially hard.

handmade wooden signs for nursery

How I wish my mom could’ve held Riley. Delighted in the fact that they will share the same middle name.

Sewn her cute little dresses. Spoiled her (almost) as much as me with all the fun baby stuff. Helped decorate her nursery with the most random things.

Mostly though, I wish she could’ve been here to help walk me through the process.

Helped me understand how it’s so incredibly different when it’s your baby having a baby. Told me what to expect when Riley makes her grand appearance. Been in that “4 generations of strong women” picture.

using laughter to hide the pain

I wish she could have been by my side to watch Riley grow, laugh, cry, and simply experience life. To see her get excited over the little things we, as adults, often take for granted. 

I wish my mom could have physically been here to share far too many photos as a great-grandmother. 

And Riley is just the first. 

What about our other 4 children? My niece? My 5 nephews? Oh how my mom would have loved watching our family grow by leaps and bounds as each of her grandchildren began their own families. 

Christmas Cousins 1999

Sometimes I feel so incredibly cheated that my mom is going to miss all of that. 

That her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren are going to miss all of that. 

There are times when I hurt more for my children than I do for myself. I had my mom for almost 42 years.

Plus, my mom is the only grandmother my children have ever known.

But, Riley will never know her. Although, I have no doubt she will know of her. We will continue to tell her stories about her GreatMaw and let her know how much she would have loved her. 

Mom and Joeli 10-27-2010

And Joeli. I hate that she really never knew my mom without cancer. My mom was diagnosed within months of Joeli’s birth. She fought the nasty disease for seven years.

Joeli turned eight 1 month and 1 day after my mom passed.

Riley is due next month. I “officially” step into my new role upon her birth. I understand I have big shoes to fill in this coveted family space.

I can only hope I make my mom proud.