CityBeat’s Living Out Loud – Cincinnati Blog

{December 21, 2006}   A Charlie Brown Christmas

luke.jpgpeanuts-_2.jpgI didn’t believe my best friend when she told me that this Christmas would be hard to get through. I thought, “How on earth could my grief be any deeper?”

You see, I lost my son, Luke, in August.

Everyone thinks their child is special, and indeed each child is. But Luke was exceptional, if you judge by the number of people he touched. Friends came from West Virginia to participate in a memorial here. His friends in Florida held another memorial. I got e-mails from his friends as far away as Connecticut, Louisiana and Florida.

When Luke was little, he loved Charlie Brown and Snoopy. He always called Snoopy, Snoopy Brown. It made sense that Charlie Brown’s dog would share his last name.

I told Luke that Snoopy and I shared the same birthday – April 22. Only my best friend and I remember an article in the Cincinnati Post & Times Star that stated this truth.

Luke, me and another of our friends carried the tradition into Luke’s adulthood. We would always send each other Peanuts greeting cards.

This year I embarked on a scavenger hunt for Charlie Brown Christmas ornaments. Strangely enough, I didn’t own any. And even stranger still, I felt compelled to find some as a sort of memorial to Luke.

I got ridiculously out-bid on e-bay. 80 freaking dollars?

I looked in all the big box stores and found characters ranging from Bratz to Rudolph, but no Charlie Brown. No Snoopy.

On a whim, I asked my mother to stop at a Hallmark store. Huzzah! We found the mother lode of Snoopy Brown Christmas ornaments.

My mother stood back while I studied the choices. I settled on a set of Charlie Brown miniatures. It contained the familiar characters dressed up for the nativity scene in the school play.

Charlie Brown is dressed in a brown robe. Lucy is dressed in blue holding an anonymous Christ child. Snoopy stands nearby holding a shepherd’s hook. And Sally, Pigpen and Linus make up the wise men bearing gifts..

I brought these home with a thought to putting these on my tiny table-top tree. I didn’t have the heart to put up a big tree this year.

Instead, inspired by I don’t know what, I turned to the table in my computer room which holds the urn with Luke’s ashes, several pictures of Luke, and two candles.

I dusted the table, and carefully placed the tiny nativity scene in front of the urn and between the candles.

Something then clicked in my mind.

I immediately went to a box of photos and found it.

There was one picture of Luke in that box. He is seven or eight years old. He is dressed as Joseph for the church Christmas pageant. He’s wearing brown robes and beside him stands a dark haired girl dressed in the blue mantle of Mary. She is holding a doll to represent Christ.

I took that photo, placed it in a frame and set it beside the tiny nativity scene. They looked like mirror images, that picture and the Charlie Brown nativity. Even down to the hair color of Luke and Charlie Brown and the girl from church and Lucy.

I looked at this tableau and sobbed.

My friend was right, this Christmas is impossible to get through.



Erin says:

I can’t imagine your pain. I’ll be thinking about you this holiday season.

Karen says:

Luke had great taste. I love Snoopy Brown too 🙂

Ed says:

Around this time of year five years ago, my son was killed in an automobile accident.

Marilyn, you’ll never get over the loss but time will help you cope with it. Recalling the good memories also helps.

I’m sorry for your loss.

Jackie says:

Marilyn, sorry about your son.

Jim says:

God bless you, Marilyn. I know this Christmas is going to be hard for you. I’ll be thinking of you.

Del says:

I think this is the time of year, Christmas, when you think of family members that have passed. Your son’s death is very recent and yes, it’s going to be a hard Christmas for you. The trick is getting pass that first one.

Maggie says:

I don’t really know what to say to this except I’m really sorry.

Matt says:

this Christmas is impossible to get through.

Just know we’re all thinking of you. You have a lot of friends here 🙂

C.A. MacConnell says:

I’m so very sorry about your loss. You are in my prayers.

jake says:

All I can say is what everybody else is saying. We’re thinking of you.

Tom says:

I lost my brother a couple years ago and he loved Christmas. This is a bad time of the year for me too.

Maria says:

I don’t know your religion or even if you have one, but praying to my God helps me through a lot of difficult times in my life. When people go through horrible times, I think they need to look upward for help.

Charlene says:

If you’re the same Marilyn who wrote the “Packages” story, at least you still got your sense of humor. I think that gets people pass rough times.

I lost a good friend this past summer, probably my best friend and he had a wonderful sense of humor. When I think of him now, I try to think of that humor he had and carry it with me.

Larry Gross says:

I like what Charlene had to say. Losing a son is a horrible, horrible thing to happen to a mother. My mother went through it when my twin brother died.

He had a wonderful, dry sense of humor. He could make he laugh harder than anybody. Sometimes when she was very down and depressed about his death, I would remind her of some of the extremely funny statements he would make or the jokes he would tell. She would always laugh and cheer up afterwards. Remembering the good times made it better.

Jered died of AIDS and after awhile, my mother got involved with AIDS organizations wanting to get the word out about this terrible illness. That also helped.

My mother is also gone now and so is my father so it’s a sad time of the year for me too. But in trying to keep my sense of humor, when people ask me what what I’m going to be doing for the holidays, I usually say – “You know, smoke some crack, have a couple hookers over and drink a lot. The usual.”

Sometimes I gotta make jokes to keep from crying, but crying is often just fine to.

You have a lot of friends here, Marilyn. We’ll always keep you company.

Love you madly!!!!!! 🙂

Jeff- or-ly says:

You have a lot of friends here, Marilyn.

YES YOU DO!!! and I’m one of them!

Karen @ the hood says:

Dear Marilyn,

I cried when I read your story and I read it this morning and I wanted to say something that would comfort you some how but I don’t know what to say.

I never knew my mother and father and my aunts I guess care about me, but my sister loves me and I love her. I don’t know what I would do if something happened to her and today I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I called her a little bit ago to tell her I loved her. I think she thought I was nuts because we don’t ever say it but because of your story, I had to call her.

So you helped me today but I don’t know how to help you. I am sorry and sometime when I get out of this world I’m living in and can be presentable to you, I would like to meet you.

All My Love,

Marilyn says:

Dear Friends,

Many thanks for the kind and thoughtful remarks and especially for thinking of me & Luke. It is indeed a horrible thing (to lose a child)– almost unthinkable. My daughter is still here with me and, while we were very bonded before Luke’s passing, we have almost a supernatural bond now. She gives me the one good reason to continue.

I REALLY like our group of friends here! It is an outlet for me like no other. I’m basically homebound (temporarily!) and so if you see me here too much (!) that’s why.

Charlene, Yep, I wrote ‘Packages’, and I told Larry when I e-mailed it to him that I was very glad to branch out in my writing… I can’t stay in the dark places for too long. It’s way too dark in there.

Karen, we may meet someday. I admire the hell outta you. You are much more special than you know… And yes, it is hard to begin saying “I love you” to people (especially since you didn’t get that alot growing up — I can totally relate), but please keep trying with your sister. I’m glad you have each other. And you just being here is a bigger help to me than you know!

(and I feel like I’ve won an oscar here so I’ll just continue….)

And many, many thanks to Larry. He has given me several outlets for my little writings. His encouragement is worth more than a bazillion dollars! God love ya, Larry.

Jason says:

I first found out about this blog from reading The Cincinnati Nation who put up a link to your Packages piece. I laughed very, very hard at what you wrote and all those comments. Now I’m a regular here. You’re a good writer.

hard as nails says:

a lot of people don’t know what to say here today and i’m one of them. i mean, when a mother pours her heart out like this, you’re sort of left speechless. i want you to know i feel bad about your loss.

Beth says:

The Packages story was CLASSIC.

Marilyn, sorry about your son.

Rod says:

Greetings from Virginia. I’m not sure how I came across this, just web surfing.

Marilyn, I enjoyed your very touching, emotional story. I lost my son ten years ago to cancer and I think of him everyday. But i keep his memory alive and my faith tells me we’ll be together again some day.

My prayers are with you this Christmas.

Jeff- or-ly says:

Hey Rod,


just kidding you brother.

Matt says:

Well at least Jeff doesn’t seem depressed. I thought he would be with that Bengals loss Monday.

Marilyn says:

Matt, no the true beauty of Jeff-or-ly is that he is the everpresent optimist. I like that about him!

jackula says:

i can relate to what h.a.n. is aaying. marilyn’s story sneaks up on you. after you read it, you want to reach out but you don’t know what to do and don’t know what to say. what do you say to a mother who has lost her son? all i can think of is life isn’t fair. it just isn’t fair.

Katie says:

No child should die before a parent does. I can’t imagine Marilyn’s pain.

Karen says:

God love ya, Larry.

He comes across really grumpy at times, but like me, you know the real scary Larry. He has a big heart 🙂

Marilyn says:

Karen, you are 100% on target (but don’t tell Larry we said so!). I first got to meet him when he did his “amputee” cover story. He is an awesome guy… And yeah, he can act like a grumpy bear, but we see through all that!

Larry Gross says:

“he can act like a grumpy bear, but we see through all that!”

I heard that!


Now get to work on your next post. I needed it yesterday.

numb says:

i’m sorry 😦

Tinker Bell says:

Are you the same Marilyn who wrote that funny packages story?

Tracy says:

I gotta tell ya, I love those Peanut characters too. I think Pig-pen is my favorite. I still watch a Charlie Brown Christmas everyyear. I love it and I’m sorry about your son.

Man of the Hour says:

Your loss is heaven’s gain.

I know you’re suffering, but you will be together again.

Helen says:

I remember Larry’s cover story —“My Right Foot” —and you in it. Maybe you can give us an update on how you are doing?

I’m sad about your son, I know , such a blow in your life.

Jacob says:

Are you married? Are you dating? I would like to meet you. I always enjoy your stories here.

Brian says:

Marilyn, my dear, it’s like you have a mansion here – rooms filled with your friends, little corners where you and folks like our li’l Karen @the Hood have connected and bonded, long hallways and playrooms to paint with your words, and a big ole porch to just sit and ramble on. I’m sorry though that you have the one room where Luke would be
You may be housebound for temp but here you have a whole other house to play in. I think Luke would’ve wanted you to enjoy this part of your Christmas.
Man, am I a metaphorical wizard or what? And my modesty, did I mention my modesty?
Tomorrow I’m heading to Chicago for Christmas with the ‘rental units. So Merry Christmas everybody, PC be damned and peace out y’all

Marilyn says:

Brian, you seem familiar with some of the catholic “doctors” of the church! Your words tell all!

Jacob, my living situation is weirder than anyone can imagine…. I do the best that I can. I very much appreciate your sentiments.

Helen, yep, it sucks being an amputee… but so much more the blow of losing my beloved son. He left a few writings…. He mentioned that he thought people would be “over” his death in a month. He had no clue how very wrong he was. I want to kick him in the ass, and, by god, I will when I see him again!

C.A. MacConnell says:

Reading these comments has helped me a great deal. I’ve been struggling over a recent loss that was very tragic. Thank you for opening up and sharing your loss, Marilyn. Take good care, Christine

Joan says:

Peanuts, god I love them. Lucy is my favorite.

Pal says:

I hope you’re all right. I was really moved by this story.

Man of the Hour says:

I read this a total of five times. I’m glad Christmas is over for Marilyn. Man, it had to be hard.

Marilyn says:

M of the H: I’m totally humbled that you read this five times. I do pour my guts out in my writing… but all of it is sincere.

And I’m so happy that the holidays are over. I’ve never known this feeling before. I always loved Christmas.

I’m surviving and I know somehow I’ll be reunited with my son’s spirit someday.

Heather says:

I’ve been offline w/ computer problems.

I hope you’re getting through the holidays okay.

Someone close to me attempted suicide long before I knew him. He’s tried to explain to me how a person reaches that point, but I just can’t understand. He said that he wasn’t thinking about how it would affect his family because he just couldn’t see past his own despair.

I can only imagine how you’re feeling. You are an incredibly strong person and I really look up to you. When my son died, it physically hurt. My arms ached to hold him, and I didn’t know what to do. My son died a few days after he was born, so I know your pain is magnified because your son was a daily part of your life for so many years.

My heart goes out to you.

Mary Ann says:

I lost my little boy this past July. He was six years old and was killed my a hit and run driver. I turned my back just for a few seconds, just for a few seconds and he was gone, killed instantly by a driver going way to fast.

I live in Florida and found your words written here a little before Christmas. Because I was in so much pain over his death during the holiday, I couldn’t write you.

The tears are coming now. Let me try to get this out. I don’t know what’s worse. Having a little child taken away so soon or an older one. Do you know what I mean? I don’t know who’s pain is greater, don’t know if it really matters. We are both mothers who have lost a child.

He also loved all the peanut characters. Charlie Brown was is favorite. In fact, that was his name…Charles Brown.

I read your story so many times. Is it that misery loves company? I don’t know but your words written meant so much to me. Thank you for writing them.

Marilyn says:

Mary Ann, Sorry it has taken me so long to respond; I’ve been helping my daughter move.

There is no way to compare or measure pain. One thing I’m sure of is that your pain goes as deeply as my own. You lost your child — the absolute worst thing to happen to a parent.

I hope that by reading my story that you at least had the comfort of knowing you are not alone. Sometimes that small thing is all we have to hold onto.

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