13 In Series/ Women Now

Cherishing loved ones at the holidays

Remembering loved ones on BrendaKinsel.com

Remembering holidays past


It’s the tradition in our family to celebrate on Christmas Eve. This year my kids — Erin, Trevor, and Caitlin — will be here, plus Erin’s boyfriend Mike and my twin brother Brent. I look forward to our family traditions (like, everyone brings something to read after dinner) and the new things we’re doing too.

We’re doing away with our traditional meal. There will be no turkey this year. (I haven’t told Brent yet.) Erin got the idea to make shabu-shabu, not exactly a Norwegian dish, but we’re all for diversity.

Sometimes there are friends here but this year it will just be family. I’ve insisted. It’s what I crave more than anything.


These are tender times

There’s been a lot of loss this year for friends and acquaintances. A husband, sister, mother, father, brother, or friend will be sorely missed.

I’ll be missing Mom and thinking about her legacy in our family.

I already miss her handwritten holiday letter and her beautiful penmanship. (Even Russ is enthralled by her handwriting). She wrote lots of letters to friends and family at Christmas. I’m glad I’ve kept all of mine. I miss the packages of lefse she’d mail to us so we’d always have lefse on our dinner table on Christmas Eve. I miss the phone calls sharing all the details of who’s coming, what’s being baked, how the kids are, and did Russ get his jar of licorice. (She liked to spoil him.)


Holiday decorations

A favorite Scandinavian decoration that I purchased with Mom at the Norsk Hostfest

Accepting the things we cannot change

Back in August in Minnesota when I was culling through more of Mother’s things, I came across a letter I’d written to my parents. I wrote it on December 24, 1998.

I packed it in my suitcase and brought it back to Sonoma. Reading it now gives me some comfort. You see, I have worried that because she left us so unexpectedly that she may not have known how much she meant to me. After her fall and her brain injury, it was hard to know if she heard the words, I love you, Mom. She didn’t live long enough to recover from her injury. Did the words get through to her? Did she know it in her heart? I want to think she knew, but how can I?

A 1998 Christmas letter on BrendaKinsel.com

A holiday memory


When I read this letter, I am assured that at least in December of 1998, she knew. When she received the letter at 1438 Sheyenne Street, West Fargo, North Dakota, she’d have gotten out her letter opener from the desk in the kitchen and sliced it open at the top. Then she would have gone to the living room and sat down in her favorite chair–maybe with a cup of coffee in her hand–and read it.


Dear Mom and Dad,

The turkey’s in the oven, the kids are out finding a T-shirt for Uncle Brent and I’m enjoying a peaceful moment before the flurry of the evening. It’s such a lovely time to reflect on the year and to acknowledge the love I feel for you both. It’s been such a great year for making memories and while I tell everyone how great you two are and how much fun and love we share, I’m not sure I tell you often enough.

This year was so very special. Is it possible to fall in love all over again with one’s parents? I’m so happy my parents are YOU. I definitely landed in the right family. Cait wait to see you in January. I can’t wait to share you with the kids and my friends. You’re such special people. And I’m not the only one to discover that. It’s fun for me to see how much you mean to others. I hope to be half as compassionate and caring as two are when I grow up.

Love, Brenda


Making memories

In time I may accept that she knew how much I loved her. In the meantime I’m still learning about her and appreciating her.

Sometimes when I’m kind to a stranger or make a joke to lighten a moment, I know she’s right by my side.

I’ll be putting one of her pretty tea cups on the table on Saturday night. She’ll be there with us. She might think we’re a little crazy for having such a non-traditional holiday meal but she’ll join in the fun, anyway.

Gosh, Mom, I love you so!

The decorations I won't be telling Mom about this year


I wish you and yours comfort this season and the chance to share memories and love with the people you hold dear.

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  • Reply
    Cathy Heine
    December 23, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Tears in my eyes. What a wonderful gift to receive – the beautiful letter that you wrote and she saved.
    I’m missing my mom and dad too. But I do believe they know what they meant.
    Wishing you a merry Christmas.

    • Reply
      December 23, 2016 at 9:36 am

      Thank you, Cathy. Reading your words brings tears to my eyes! I think you’re right about them knowing. It’s nice to not feel alone in loss. Hugs to you.

  • Reply
    Cathy Cogdell
    December 23, 2016 at 7:06 am

    Such a beautiful word, Brenda❤️

    • Reply
      December 23, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Thank you, Cathy. Wishing you a blessed holiday.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2016 at 7:40 am

    Merry Christmas, Brenda. God blessed me with three beautiful daughters, and wonderful parents, so I too have much to be grateful and thankful for.

    I also want you to know how much I appreciate you; your giving generous heart, sharing your wonderful creative brain, trusting us, your readers (and fans) to always be there to help prop you up when needed. You don’t just give at the holidays, you share with us all year long. Thank you.
    Your faithful fan,

  • Reply
    Brenda N.
    December 23, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Wishing you joyous holidays, Brenda. Tears in my eyes! I’m certain your mom knew how much you loved her. After losing my mom rather suddenly last month, I also found a similar letter that I’d written to my parents on the eve of my wedding over 35 years ago, I’m sure that mom carried my words with her always, as did your mom. The special bond we share with our mothers cannot be broken. Take care. 🙂

    • Reply
      December 23, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      How absolutely lovely that you found that letter! I love thinking about your mother reading that letter and carrying it with her. Thank you for your caring words. A special wish of love to you this holiday season. Hugs from here in Sonoma to you, Brenda.

  • Reply
    Charissa Bronsky
    December 23, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    I’m so grateful for your posts, especially this touching holiday wish. Of course, I write this with tears in my eyes as I still miss my mother. Thank you, Brenda, with so much peace and love to you.

    • Reply
      December 23, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      Thank you, Charissa. I feel a collective growing of mothers and daughters sharing love and appreciation with each other wherever we are. Thanks for sharing with me. It’s comforting. My wishes for peace and love to you too. Xx

  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    December 24, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Dear Brenda,
    I wish I could think of something to say that would make you feel happier. Grief will eventually pass. Perhaps it would help to reflect on how your mother would want you to feel. Please know that I and all your other fans appreciate and count on your wonderful blog. It’s a source of great inspiration, a wonderful gift that you give us. Thank you, and have a Merry Christmas!

  • Reply
    December 24, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    Of course she knows. She is there with you. Don’t doubt. I don’t think we ever “get over” losing our parents. But we learn to live with it. My mum has been gone 2 years. And I was never close to her but I think of her often and wish I could for just a moment go back to an earlier time. Today (already Christmas here in Aust) we used mum’s dinner set and crystal glasses. Best wishes to you for new memories with your family.

  • Reply
    January 1, 2017 at 6:47 am

    What a lovely post. I lost my mother last week on Christmas day and as I absorb this loss, your words bring me comfort and hope. Happy 2017 to you and your family.

    • Reply
      January 3, 2017 at 11:24 am

      Oh my, Irene. My heart goes out to you. Wish I was sitting there with you giving you comfort in any way I could. “Absorb this loss” — those are perfect words. Absorbing the loss will take many shapes. A Happy New Year to you as well. I’ve written quite a few posts about loss. If this one helped, maybe others would too. I think if you just put the word loss into the search bar, they’ll come up. It’s such a ongoing process and you have a friend here in your corner…always. Don’t forget!

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