Countdown. 4 days until Christmas. Thoughts of Christmases past flash through my mind. Small children out of their minds with excitement and trying so hard to be “good” to atone for their “bad” behavior since the last Christmas and hoping that Santa has a short memory. The excitement of waiting at the top of the stairs waiting for the all clear to come down to see what Santa left. Of course, as the four kids turned into young adults the excitement changed into cherishing the memories of their younger selves and the traditions that had always been part of the holiday.
Two years ago, we awoke on Christmas morning with four young adults. This year, two are married, one is in college, and one is in Heaven. It is definitely a different kind of holiday this year. There doesn’t seem to be a need to make a bunch of sweets when two of the three living in this house watch their carbs. No one wants toys, gaming system or new games for existing systems. Everyone has requested practical gifts.
So how do I navigate this clearly different Christmas? It would be so easy to wallow in sadness. Prior to this Christmas, the most challenging Christmas was the first one after my mother died. My children ranged from 12-21 y/o and were still at an age where they filled the house with excitement and activity. I remember everyone in the house was so excited on Christmas Eve and eager to celebrate our traditions. I remember going into my walk in closet in my bedroom late afternoon, closing the door, and hoping that the overstuffed closet would muffle the sounds of a middle age woman crying the tears of a little girl grieving her first Christmas without her mother. After a good cry, I washed my face, freshened my make-up and joined the family for our planned evening of fun. I didn’t think that they were even aware of my sadness. Imagine my surprise Christmas morning when my children presented me with a gold locket with a photo of my mother and me on my wedding day on one side and a photo of my mother’s beautiful eyes on the opposite side. Maybe they had not witnessed my tears but they certainly had been watching my heart all year. Of course, I loved the locket, but I loved the children who came up with the idea of the most thoughtful gift more. I will always remember their sweet faces eagerly watching me unwrap this gift of love.
So here I am on the first Christmas without my oldest son. Christmas Day will mark 12 weeks exactly since we received the news of his passing. How am I going to choose to spend my Christmas Day this year? I have chosen to give my family the gift of beautiful memories of Christmases past. I have chosen to give them memories celebrating a lifetime with their brother. I am choosing to focus on remembering the wonderful memories instead of wallowing in my sadness. I decided that I didn’t want this to be the Christmas where we mourn what we no longer have but instead rejoice in the life that we have all shared together.
I have always been a glass half full person. I have had a lot of adversity in my life and I guess this has conditioned me to be so grateful for any small kindness that others choose to gift me. I have had many people send messages and show acts of kindness in the past couple of weeks out of respect for the season and for the wedding weekend we just celebrated knowing that each would represent its own challenges. I am so grateful for friends with empathy and who understand my love language which is words of encouragement and affirmation. On the day of the rehearsal dinner I received a beautiful floral delivery of white roses and Christmas greenery from an out of town friend with a message of “thinking of you and your love for cut flowers”. They came at a time when I was home alone and preparing for the evening while simultaneously thinking about how much I wished big brother could be here. What a delight to answer the doorbell and be handed this bouquet from the happiest delivery lady I have ever encountered. She alone was a delight. I have appreciated the unexpected text messages from friends with words of encouragement who have the empathy to imagine how they would be feeling right now. It is amazing how these all come at the most perfect time.
God has used this circumstance to let me know how much I am loved. He has used this time to bring out the very best in others as they show our family love. Anyone who knew my son intimately knew what a sensitive, kind spirit he had and still has. So I choose to thank my son for bringing out the best in others.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not have any answers. I still have lots of moments when I feel a punch to the gut and a hole in my heart. I am just trying to be grateful for the gentleness and grace of my friends as they are patient with me while I work through this time.
If this is a challenging Christmas for you, call or text a close friend or two and tell them that you would like to ask for a favor. Tell them that you are having a hard time with memories of Christmases past and ask them for what you need. Whether that be meeting for a cup of coffee, asking if you can stop by for a visit with a love offering of a sweet treat, or asking them for their thoughts and prayers.
If you would like to share your thoughts with me or ask for thoughts and prayers, please leave your message in the comments. If you are reading this, even if you don’t have a particular burden yourself, please share this post on Facebook. You never know when a friend of a friend of a friend may need to know someone else is where they are.
Peace and love.
She writes about life, death, grief, and recovery.
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