No Decorations for Christmas
A Reminder of Loss
The holiday music, from “Joy to the World”, to “Jingle Bells” and “All I Want for Christmas is You” – all trigger the brokenness in my heart to cue the sadness, in overdrive. A reminder of loss, I lost my son and father.
During church on Sunday, tears flowed freely as I tried to sing “Mary, Did You Know?”
There are numerous times during the year when my broken heart awakens and reminds me of the deep pain lingering inside. Like a shallow pool of clear water, the rocks or shells are just below the surface with sharp edges waiting for a barefoot.
Every holiday; yes, every traditional family holiday…New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Palm Sunday, Easter, Mother’s Day (don’t get me started), Memorial Day, Father’s Day (as much pain as Mother’s Day), Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and now Christmas. As well as, EVERY family birthday– barefoot on the sharp rocks.
What Makes it So Difficult?
What makes Christmas so difficult for me? The memories of what should have been flash before me in bright, sparkling lights. The family I lost is seen in each of the happy family Christmas cards that stream in our mail. I am reminded this is the most wonderful time of the year with the cheer and joy exclaimed from the radio and during the holiday parties hosted by friends. Except, it doesn’t feel like the most wonderful time of year if you lost a child, a parent, a loved one, or a dear family member. I guard my heart more closely, trying to protect it from the triggers that eventually open the trap door to sadness and sometimes anger. The tension I feel is unfortunately projected on those around me. So much for pleasantries and kindness with holiday cheer.
My first Christmas without Reat and Dad was brutally painful.
Thinking of the memory now, makes my heart wake up with aches. Our family had the honor of lighting Christ’s candle on Christmas Eve at the Church of the Resurrection. My family of three, with my mother, younger brother, and his family of four walked the candle from the back of the sanctuary to the stage without catching ourselves, the carpet, or anyone else on fire. We held it together on stage during a heartfelt prayer from Pastor Adam Hamilton. Tears slowly found my cheeks and those of my mother and son, Lukas, while we watched the congregation begin to move from darkness to light with the original light coming from Christ’s candle. Tradition is to pass the candle allowing for light and then to break into the song, Joy to the World!
I couldn’t breathe, let alone sing the song. I wanted to feel joy again and prayed I would find it.
I dreaded Christmas morning, the sun rising again as a reminder that our world, our lives go on, even without our loved ones. Trying to stop the pain, stop the life I was living, stop the world from turning so quickly, I drove back to the midnight church service.
During this service, I was not in the spotlight with my family. I sat alone with the responsibility to no one. I was able to listen more intently to the message from the pulpit. In this state of almost meditation, I felt the deep well of pain and tears begin to stream from my body. A strange relief, relaxation, and rest came over me. Peace. For a fleeting moment, I was at peace.
What’s Best for Me Isn’t Always Best for Everyone
Christmas 2019 is our sixth Christmas without Reat and Dad. My brilliant idea was to escape the memories with a trip out of the country. Because we are leaving prior to Christmas Day, I surmised there was no reason to decorate the house. Less decoration, fewer memories, less sadness.
Learning many new parenting nuances and techniques since Reat’s death, I know that I am as happy as my saddest child. Reat is happy in Heaven. I believe it. I know it. I live it.
Therefore, when Lukas is unhappy, so goes me. Shortly after Thanksgiving when no tree was purchased and no poinsettias made it into our home, Lukas pondered “where is Christmas?”. Ouch.
Thinking that what was best for me would of course be best for him, was misguided. In the past, we used to “adopt a family” over Christmas. I had not realized that this action had become part of Lukas’ Christmas. Today, we are receiving the names and ages of two children for whom we can “adopt”.
I know I will find comfort and even peace, amid holiday shopping for these two kids I don’t know. Giving of ourselves to others has a crazy way of making us feel better.
Six years – I have learned that pain and peace can be mixed together, one coming quickly after the other so fast the emotions are mixed, and sometimes confusing. Am I sad? Am I laughing through tears?
If I am on your holiday card list, keep sending them.
If you sense anger, tension, or sadness in a friend or coworker, be aware they may feel like I do when this holiday season arrives. Perhaps playing your favorite holiday tunes at work is best done through your headphones.
If you get sad, as I do, allow the tears to flow, share your story with someone – because they most likely have a story of their own.
I find I am at peace when I write. Thank you for being part of my journey.