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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and I hate it. Every twinkling light, every cute decoration, every song, every advertisement is ripping out my guts and squashing them on the city sidewalks.

My mom has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She’s doing great for being full of tumors and pumped full of poison every two weeks, but the reality is . . . she’s dying. Not immediately. Hopefully not soon, but it’s coming.

And you see, my mom makes the Christmas magic happen. The decor. The presents. The parties. The stockings. The games. The family time together. The food. The food. The food. Mom does that. When I drive across the country and arrive home in late December, the house twinkles. The smells send me into Christmas nostalgia overload. Every year, my mother creates a Christmas wonderland.

Everything I love about Christmas . . . she did it. She built it. She baked it. She bought it. She wrapped it. She decorated it. She worked so hard to make their eyes light up. To make us laugh. To bring us together. And every Christmas morning, my kids have always shuffled downstairs in their footie pajamas, bypassed the stockings and presents, and snuggled into Grammie’s arms.

RELATED: Dear Mom, Everything I Do To Make Christmas Magical For My Kids is Because You Made it Magical For Me First

If there were awards for best Christmaser, my mom would get them all. EVERY SINGLE ONE. And this is very likely the last Christmas we will ever have with her. The last one my kids will have with her. The last one my dad will have with her. The last one.

The last cookies. The last Chicken Corn Chowder. The last stockings. The last Chex Mix. The last, “Oh I thought this new thing would be fun.” The last dice game. The last board game we all laugh through while we play. The last, the last, the last.

Which means there’s pressure to make it great. To make it memorable. To make it the best one. But it hurts too bad to be the best. And none of it will measure up to the sum of all the other Christmases. And so it is likely we will just put on our brave faces, keep a stiff upper lip, and try to make it “normal.” Because what in the world is there to do at Christmas when the magic maker is dying?

The best I can think of is to be grateful I’ve had this magic maker for 43 years. And to roll up my sleeves and help make as much magic with her as I can this year.

I know it won’t be the same. It will never be the same. I’ll try to make the things, and they won’t taste like hers. Whoever is in charge of stockings will forget the Rolos. Even though that is the one thing you can absolutely not forget.

And when she is gone, we will still carry on. Dice game, Saran Wrap Game, Chex Mix, Cinnamon Rolls, Egg Casserole. My kids’ eventual spouses will never meet her, but their Christmas traditions will be full of Grammie Mel, and I like that. That feels comforting to me . . . knowing that after she’s gone, and even after I am gone, my kids will gather, and whatever their favorite of the many traditions my mom started or carried on, they will continue in homage to her. That is the reason we have traditions, I guess. They are our way of remembering the ones we love—honoring the legacy they created while they lived.

So, friend, if your magic maker is suffering this Christmas, or if she moved on earlier this year, you’re not alone. If the thought of Christmas is gutting you and you want to skip it all in protest of the loss or impending loss, me too.

RELATED: The First Christmas Without My Parents Cuts Deep

Because I absolutely want to protest this. I want to throw my hands up in the air and scream about how Christmas is just not right. And I will scream it next year when she’s gone. And I will scream it every year from now until forever. And I will wonder how on earth all of these people can just carry on when this travesty is happening. The world is losing the best Christmaser that ever Christmased. Without Mom, Christmas will be wrong, wrong, wrong.

But I will remind myself that the best thing I can do is show up with my tears and my joy and my love and my stress, and I will make the things. I will do the things that feel like Christmas, and when I get too tired, too overwhelmed, too angry, I will rest, or maybe beat the heck outta those delicious rolls she makes that need to be kneaded. And while it will never be the same, it will be good enough. Because I know she will never actually be gone at Christmas. She is wrapped too deep in every tradition our family has for her to ever really be gone. And that makes me feel a tiny bit better.

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Emily Donehoo

Emily Donehoo is the lone female in a family of five, a former teacher, and an outdoor enthusiast. She's crazy about books, tacos, pizza, Jesus, and snuggles. You can read more of her writing on her blog.

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