From a special guest blogger: "I miss buying my mom Hanukkah presents!"

Hi, my name is Michelle Hersh, and Marisa has kindly offered to let me share a little bit of my story with you.

I am an almost 40 (shhhh!) year old living in the Midwest and Marisa is a 20-something living on the East Coast. What we have in common is that we both lost our fabulous moms to pancreatic cancer. It is rare even at my age to find other people in my general age category who share the pain of losing a parent and even rarer to find someone who has lost that parent to pancreatic cancer. We would rather have our moms here and never have heard about pancreatic cancer, but since that is not the case, we are making the most of it and are becoming fast friends!

My mom, like Sally, was the life of the party, my biggest cheerleader, and the center of our family. My mom Barbara died at 65, two years ago on November 27, 2006. Even amongst tragedy and death the calendar keeps moving on and so do others around you. When a death first occurs, you just want to scream to people in general “Don’t you know my mom just died, how can you be carrying on with your life?” Well, carry on they do and in time you find yourself joining them.

Hanukkah was always a fun time at our house. As kids, my sister Marci and I would sneak around for weeks ahead of time trying to find my mom’s hiding places. Seeing if we could cajole my dad into giving up a little hint as to what we could expect in our pile of presents. We would light the menorah and open a present (or two!) for eight nights. What I remember most was that my mom would be as excited for us on the eighth night as she was on the first. She delighted in gathering the perfect presents, festive wrapping and seeing us happy. It did not matter if we were 2 or 32 – her enthusiasm was the same.

As I got older, my gift giving to my mom turned from hand made cards and school projects to finding her equally coveted and thoughtful gifts. Apparently she thought the cards to be most important because as I went through her things after she died, she had kept every single card or letter she ever received from not only me, but my sister, my dad, her parents, her siblings and the list goes on. I don’t think that she looked at them very often but she had them.

Now, I have them and I do look at them. Each time I do it is like a little present for me because I get to share a memory with my mom even though she is not here to laugh with me. On second thought, she is probably laughing at me, since that makes me more sentimental than I would have ever let on!

Since my mom died, we have tried to move forward with holidays to the best of our ability. It is very hard not having the one person who was most excited about everything here with us but we are settling into a new groove – another part of our “new normal”.

We still buy piles of presents for each other, not necessarily extravagant, but a volume of things because that is what mom did. She liked to see the floor covered in presents and seeing that space bare would be too much bear.

Enjoy your holidays! Remember time spent with your loved ones, make new memories as you will cherish them in the future and I promise you that if I can get through it, so can you!