Debbie Dingell reflects on 'a hard year' and on Christmas without John

December 24, 2019, 6:09 AM by  Alan Stamm

Debbie Dingell posts frankly on social media in recent days about widowhood, unkindness and "what felt like a tsunami" last week.

"It’s truly been a hard year for the Dingell family," she says on Facebook a few days ago, alluding to February's death of former Rep. John Dingell, her husband of 38 years. A day after that weekend post, she followed up with news that his younger brother, Dr. James V. Dingell, died from lung cancer a month after being diagnosed.

Rep. Debbie Dingell greets UAW members at a holiday party in her district last week.
(Photos: Facebook)

The Dearborn congresswoman's hard year also includes a nasty presidential crack last Wednesday night in Michigan, a swipe that she continues to address head-on. 

"For this holiday season, I pray that we are a little kinder to each other ... and remember words have consequences," she posts.

The Dec. 18 unpleasantness occurred in Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena as Donald Trump spoke to 5,500 supporters at a re-election campaign rally. He brought up Rep. Dingell, author of a New York Times commentary that morning about her impeachment vote later the same day, and implied that her late husband may be in hell.

"Maybe he’s looking up," Trump said of the Democrat who had been the longest-serving Congress member in history.

His widow responded within about an hour: 

That reaction, originally shared with 89,000 followers, has been retweeted nearly 65,000 times.

'Kindness ... when you are down'

More recently, the 66-year-old Democrat reflects on that reminder -- exactly a week before Christmas Day -- of how vital it is to have a circle of caring to provide a steadying embrace after a jolt.  

"Thank you to all of you who have been there for the last few days and always are," she posted on Facebook an hour before dawn Saturday. "I am trying to call, email, write and send notes to all of you. You can never know what that kindness means when you are down." 

John and Debbie Dingell, a Washington power couple.

Dingell suggested that her 20,000 followers on that account (one of two) remember to "thank those who help us each and every day and that we start thinking of new year’s resolutions that help make all of us a little more understanding, a little more patient." 

In a similar tone Monday, under a delightful photo of a young niece, she advised: "No matter the turbulence around us, take time with your family and friends this holiday season."

She signed both posts "D2," as in double D or D-squared. 

'How hard holidays can be'

A month earlier, 11 days before Thanksgiving, the third-term representative also used Facebook as a place for reflective, somber thoughts about what matters most.

"I am telling everyone now, I am going to have a hard time with the holidays and am trying to just do things differently," she posted Nov. 17. "Will attend holiday parties I can, but may not be the life of the party. ...

John Dingell is buried at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

"And I have simply made the decision I am not decorating this year. My offices will, [and I'll have] a wreath on the door of houses. But I just cannot do the tree, nutcrackers, candy canes, holiday villages, etc.

"I have become a person who understands how hard holidays can be for people, and [I] ask everyone to help someone you know going through a hard time. Smile, hug them, understand and just be there.

"Busy keeps me going, and I am lucky I can fill every moment. Not everyone can. The holidays can be one of the loneliest times of the year, and I have a new understanding of that."

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