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KIRK STARRATT: The Christmas mom was killed I realized her love would never die

Valley Journal-Advertiser and Annapolis Valley Register reporter Kirk Starratt with a family photo taken in 1987.
Valley Journal-Advertiser and Annapolis Valley Register reporter Kirk Starratt with a family photo taken in 1987. - Sam Macdonald

Do you believe that a mother’s love for her family has the power to transcend space and time?

I do.

It has taken me 18 years to find the strength to share this story. I hope it might help someone else dealing with the loss of a loved one, a pain that always seems to hit harder during the holiday season.

It was six days before Christmas in 2001 that my mother, Mary, was killed in a head-on collision on Highway 101, near Mount Denson.

Dec. 23, 2001 was the day of my mother’s funeral, the hardest day I had ever faced to that point.

The Starratt family, Art, Mary, Mark and Kirk, in May 1987.
The Starratt family, Art, Mary, Mark and Kirk, in May 1987.

My mom always kept in close touch with my aunts and grandparents. She told my aunts that she had been doing some Christmas shopping. Not wanting those last presents to go undelivered, my aunts, Joy and Gerry, came to the house after the funeral to look for the gifts.

They searched high and low but couldn’t find anything. At that point, Christmas presents were the least of my concerns, so I accepted this and didn’t give it another thought.

With the support of family and friends, we muddled through that Christmas Day the best we could. Christmas was already difficult enough, having lost my father, Art, to cancer a few years earlier.

That afternoon, I remember pacing the floor upstairs and finding myself in my big brother Mark’s old room. He had stopped sleeping in there years before. He later told me this was because he had been scared so badly by the vision of an apparition staring at him from within his dresser mirror. There wasn’t much that frightened Mark.

As I saw my own reflection in that very mirror and looked into my eyes, I heard the words in my head: what sounded like my mom saying, “Look under the bed.”

Thinking this was odd and chalking it up to physical and emotional exhaustion, I dismissed it and moved on.

Later that night, unable to sleep and with another 10 or so minutes left to Christmas Day, I was once again pacing around. I went back into Mark’s room and once again looked in the mirror. I again heard those words in my head, my mom saying, “Look under the bed.”

This time, I listened - and looked.

And there they were: the last Christmas gifts from Mom.

I felt like my hands were being guided as I wrapped them just as she would have. A colourful bow. Ribbon curled at the ends with scissors. When morning came, I delivered them for her.

My last Christmas present from mom wasn’t the pair of new winter boots she had bought me. It was the knowledge that she was still somehow watching over us in spite of death. It was knowing that losing her from the physical world didn’t mean losing her love.

My brother was killed in a house fire in the late fall of 2015, so I’m the only one left from my immediate family now. However, my last Christmas gift from mom - the knowledge that love lives on - has appreciated with time. It’s something I can carry with me forever.

If you’re dealing with the pain of losing a loved one this Christmas, keep an open mind and an open heart. Death in the physical sense is inevitable but the power of love survives and guides. Even from beyond the grave.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

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