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.