Christmas without mum

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Christmas without mum

Sam Paxton with her mum Ellen

For many of us, the festive season is a time when family and friends come together to celebrate the holidays and welcome the New Year ahead. It is usually a time for fun, laughter and happiness. However for many families, the holiday season can be a time of great sadness with the memory or loss of a loved one.

On Christmas Day in 2017, Sam Paxton’s mother, Ellen, died of lung cancer. As Sam approaches this festive season and her first Christmas without her mum, Sam admits she is uncertain about the emotions this time of year will bring to her and her family.

“We are fragile and unsure about navigating our way through our first Christmas Day without her.

“We may mark the day with a gift of Christmas cake to the staff and families at the Mater Private (Redlands) and follow that up with a high-tide swim on Coochiemudlo Island, mum and dad’s home,” Ms Paxton said.

“The thing I miss mostly about my mother is our conversations, her shrewd advice, her loving attention, her voice and her smell, Ms Paxton said.

Staying at home for as long as possible was very important to Ellen at the end of her life. Ellen loved being at home and although she was very ill, Ellen was able to share her last memories doing the things she loved with the people she loved. 

“Being at home for mum was very important because it is a part of who she was, it anchored her to her life.

“The day before she went to hospital for the last time, she mowed the lawn (she loved her garden that much), strung some Christmas beads, made a citrus syrup cake and called me to organise frozen food for dad. She shared a sunset wine with friends and sat up with her sister and talked into the night,” Ms Paxton said.

A painting of a laundry sink, clothes detergent bottles and a fence.
Laundry Light

Sam submitted her first painting since the passing of Ellen in the 2018 Dying to Talk online art competition earlier this year. The artwork ‘Laundry Light (pictured above) represents her mum's love of being at home and in the garden as well as the ‘importance of finding solitude in quiet spaces’.

“Mum was a realist painter of domestic spaces and objects. I have painted many realist paintings since mum died last Christmas and have come to understand that 'Still Lifes' are simply documented evidence that the painter communed with the space they were present in,” Ms Paxton said.

To support you and your family with grief and loss, here are five ways to remember someone during the holiday season:

  1. Light a special candle in their honour 
  2. Make their favourite dish and share it with loved ones
  3. Hang a remembrance ornament on the Christmas tree
  4. Share stories with family and friends about your favourite holiday memories and traditions
  5. Make a charity donation in their name

If you need support during the holiday season you can contact: 

Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 80
Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277