Joy was missing. I felt terrible to admit I really didn’t want to celebrate Christmas this year, there has been so much loss, and so I didn’t say anything. Instead of much shopping, and anticipation planning the menu, all was quiet. “Not sure yet, what we will do,” quieted the inquiries.
The realization that things will never again be the way they were, and not having the spirit to try to make new traditions was tough and depressing until a couple of things happened.
It seems I often react the opposite of most in many situations and this was no different.
Friends who lost loved ones told me they had difficulty sleeping for years after their loss. I had no problem sleeping (yes part of it is I do much of my writing all hours of the night) but thoughts and scenes came back to me when I awakened. So, I resisted awaking. I would close my eyes and try to fall back to sleep.
It must have worked that one day because I had a dream or vision of our daughter-in-heaven – and a very fed up daughter it was. Laurie put her face close, like she did when she had something important or tender to say.
It began when she was a toddler and she wanted her easily distracted mom to be sure to hear what she had to say. She would put her little hands on either side of my face and either nose-to-nose or forehead-to-forehead, how could a mom not melt – and listen? She did it when she tucked me in when I slept at her house, calling me Mumzie, and she did it in Chicago on our last trip together – for some tender moments and also for her ‘teachable’ moments like “Mother, one piece of extremely awesome chocolate is enough. You don’t need to eat it until you get sick.”
Now in my dream I saw her coming close and expected a Mumzie moment. What she said, firmly and in her no-nonsense tone was, “Mother, GET UP!”
I woke with a smile. Chuckling actually. It was bittersweet, but it was just what I needed, and I went directly to the attic and pulled out the Christmas decorations. All five of our stockings (from way back when) went up, as did the little wall and table trees, and, of course, the nativity.
But now what?
Granddaughter Kristin and hubby Frank surprised us with an invite to their new home, giving us a fresh setting for the day. She made our present Christmas a comfort. It was good to celebrate Christmas in a new setting. Food was great, conversations were good, and we took a brisk walk to undo a few of the calories from Christmas goodies.
We used to take a picture of all the grandkids lined up as they (and the family) grew each year. But now some are far away and unable to join us in person. Most of the great-grandkids consequently were not there either, but we were thankful for FaceTime and Skype and telephones and texts so we could see and visit with the rest of the family before, during and after our get-together. Kristin did set up a picture by their big tree, and of course pics of the little tykes bring joy.
We thought it would be a dark and lonely day, but we were reminded of the coming of Christ — the reason for the season. Fun was watching some great-grandchildren tear open small gifts. I felt they represented our future Christmases.
A silly little gift exchange (everyone getting an unknown item in their little package and a choice to exchange gifts with someone else after shaking and squeezing the packages) was fun. It was meaningful too, because…
Included with each silly gift was a photo of a real gift given in remembrance of David and Laurie. Chickens, seeds, blankets, schooling, sports gear and more would brighten the lives of others far away giving the memory of our past Christmases a lasting difference with the hope of improving the future for others.
Honestly, I dreaded this season – and this day this year. But on the way home (though I did release more tears) I said well I didn’t just survive Christmas, but a bit like the character Scrooge from Dickens’ Christmas Carol, I had the privilege of a fresh view of Christmas past, present and future. Joy came, after all.
Beloved, you have such a gift from God for embracing reality with your whole being, willingly lingering long enough to reflect, ask questions. wonder, ponder and be real before the Lord and others. So few do that. And then you share with us. Oh, may the Lord bring exceedingly abundant beauty out of these ashes, and praise instead of a spirit of fainting. May you and your family and the friends of Laurie experience a special gladness springing up out of the ground of mourning in its time.
This is your blog, but, if I may, the word “gladness” in the context of mourning brings to mind a day of shattering sadness for me. I went to the Lord when I had the ability to be alone and asked Him for a Scripture to sustain me. Immediately came, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
Well, I could celebrate that the LORD made that day, as all others, with all of its beauty and provisions – attending the grievous events – but I admitted to Him that I certainly didn’t feel glad. So I read the entire Psalm from which this passage came. The context is the Psalmist looking forward to the Messiah. Oh, that changed everything! I could be glad… especially glad that day… that I had a Redeemer, a Savior, an Emmanuel (God with us). As tears of joy joined sobs of sadness, I sensed within my whole being the LORD assuring me, He would shepherd me through the season ahead. And He has. Not without grief and significant disruptions in life. But, oh, to have the Savior – the Man of Sorrows – who bore my shame and more, with me – that brings a special joy and comfort to the rugged journey.
God breathe into you, and place around you, everything you need, dear friend, every day of the rugged journey.
Ellen, Yes, I understand where you are coming from about the gladness. I think that is why I felt some healing at Kristin’s home for Christmas – I could focus differently – instead of what we did not have – we were able to focus on what we did have. Also, author Cec Murphy’s hard-learned truth keeps me sane (feelings are just emotions – they are not reality). And reality as you have so tenderly shared is the truth of God’s Word. Yes, it makes all the difference. I’m grateful to God for the day He put us together on the prayer team – it’s turned into years of great gain. Hugs.