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A Christmas wish

By BY J.R. ORTEGA - JRORTEGA@VICAD.COM
Dec. 15, 2009 at 6:15 a.m.
Updated Dec. 16, 2009 at 6:16 a.m.

BeBe Canchola holds on to and comforts her granddaughter Jordan, crying and emotionally upset when conversation about her father Roland was discussed. Canchola's first child died shortly after birth in 1975, her son Robert died in 2003 and her son Roland died in an auto accident last July.

LOCAL GROUPS CAN HELP WITH GRIEVING

Compassionate Friends: 361-573-9886

Hospice of South Texas: 361-572-4300

Widows and Widowers Support Group: 361-578-4175

South Texas Children's Home Ministries: 361-575-5151

Mother's Against Drunk Drivers: 1-877-MADDHELP

DEALING WITH GRIEF

Donna Vidales, a counselor with Hospice of South Texas, suggests those who deal with grief during the holidays reflect on several thoughts this Christmas:

The stress of the holidays, when combined with the strain of sorrow, can impact you emotionally, mentally and physically.

Realize that that holiday season is not equivalent to holidays past. The painful realization is that your loved one is not celebrating with you.

Give yourself consent to modify traditions, yet honor prior customs.

Talk about your loved one. Laugh, cry, share memories and converse about the past. This is a powerful part of the healing process.

Have a special moment of remembrance such as lighting a candle, putting an ornament on the tree, wrapping and presenting a present from the deceased, reading written feelings and thoughts, setting a place at the table or playing a favorite song.

Try hard not to isolate yourself. This is a time you need support and encouragement. Although it may be difficult, it is important to communicate your needs. For example, if you need or not need to visit the gravesite, let others know so they can be supportive.

Do not judge or doubt yourself and don't be afraid to talk to friends and family members you trust.

Seek professional bereavement counseling. If appointments are available, a local non-profit Hospice can offer services without cost.

Try to understand that although you will never forget the one you love, the holidays will not always be this painful.

Multi-colored Christmas lights, festive decorations and a pink, four-foot Christmas tree with several presents under it deck BeBe Canchola's living room.

But there is no Christmas cheer for the 57-year-old woman and her husband Roy, who have lost all three of their children unexpectedly - two of them in the past couple of

years.

No - Christmas this year is simply for their four grandchildren, she said.

"That's who we live for now," BeBe said, as she sat down holding a cup of hot coffee. "They are the ones who are going to help mend our hearts back together."

Dealing with grief during the holidays, especially over a child, is a feeling the Cancholas experienced before when they lost their first child, Chastity, at birth in 1975, BeBe said.

The second, Robert Canchola Jr., 26, died after he fell off a building at Formosa in 2003. The third, Roland, 29, died July 24 in a car and train accident in Lolita. "I took it very hard and didn't want children at first," Bebe said about her daughter's death.

Pictures of Robert and Roland grace the wall opposite the Christmas tree.

Roy does not like having many pictures of their sons around the house, his wife said.

"He just couldn't handle it," she added.

BeBe considers herself the strong one, not necessarily her husband.

She's deeply involved in her faith and church and chooses to celebrate her two sons' deaths through positive community outreach, she said.

Though positivity helps with the healing process, the pain is still there, she said.

BeBe walks past the Christmas tree and opens a door to one of the many rooms in her home.

She flips the light switch and four walls covered with collectible action figures and sports memorabilia awaken the sleepy room.

That's the room her husband enjoys most because the hundreds of collectibles were bought both by and with his sons.

He tries to keep up with collecting, but it hurts too much sometimes, his wife said.

On the opposite side of the house, her son Roland's room sits just as it did the day he left.

A toothbrush, a contact solution bottle and container remain in their proper place.

"It's like he left and will be back," she said.

She knows he won't that's wishful thinking, she said.

Roland was killed after driving back from a baseball game in Bay City, his mother said.

His vehicle rolled over and he was ejected onto a railroad track in Lolita.

An oncoming train ensured that his family wouldn't have a proper goodbye.

"We couldn't say goodbye to him," BeBe said in tears.

She hopes to one day pack some of his belongings and put them to good use through the Salvation Army.

She's still not sure when that day will come, she said.

After Robert's death, Roland took it hard, his mother said.

A semester away from graduating as a coach from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, he came home to spend time with family.

Roland had two daughters, Abby and Jordan.

Jordan, 5, buried her face into her grandmother's bosom in an uncontrollable sob when BeBe asked about her "Papa," her pet name for her father.

Jordan has trouble talking about what happened and instead keeps emotions bottled up inside, BeBe said.

Both Jordan and her grandmother are in grief counseling.

"It helps," BeBe said. "You need someone to talk to or someone who will just listen."

The Cancholas have helped keep their children's memories alive through doing things in their name.

BeBe and her husband have given several scholarships away to students in Bloomington, where her sons went to school.

She's also in the process of having a baseball scholarship in Roland's name at TAMUK, she said.

"It's in memory of our sons," she said. "It's worth it if we can help."

Receiving counseling, having faith and taking life one day at a time is the only advice, she said.

A grieving heart during the holidays is always a challenge, said Donna Vidales, a counselor with Hospice of South Texas.

"Getting though the holidays after loss is decidedly a personal choice. There is no right or wrong way to cope when you are grieving," she said.

The truth of the matter is that you never get over it, BeBe said.

BeBe has lost her parents, brothers, sisters and some friends, but none of those loses compare to losing her three children, she said.

"Losing a son or a daughter is worse than anything in the world," she said. "I mean, you gave birth to this child. God lends them to you for a while, he will take them when he's ready. I have to keep that in mind, but it's hard."

This Christmas, under the pink tree Jordan begged so much for, there isn't a gift for BeBe or her husband.

But she does have a Christmas wish.

BeBe has been in contact with several entities trying to find out why was it that when emergency personnel found her son dead on the tracks, did they not remove him.

It's a question she asks every night when she cries herself to sleep, she said.

"Why did they leave my son on the tracks," she asked in a shaking sob. "Why couldn't they just have pulled him away? I want an answer before I die. That's my Christmas answer."

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