Pass the Pie, Please
In 2014, our first holidays after the loss of family members, Dad and Reat, I tried to stop the holidays from happening. In our home, planning has begun for the holidays. Having recently relocated to Florida, we are flying to Kansas City to reunite with our family for Thanksgiving. Discussing the expected commitments has finally become manageable, four years (and four holiday seasons) after the tragedy.
Four years of walking through the holiday seasons – without our loved ones – has been like walking through a “fun house” at a carnival, except with no actual fun. In a “funhouse,” you walk through a maze of uneven walkways that cause you to lose your balance, all the while mirrors in every direction distort your vision. Frequently, you accidentally walk right into someone else, lose your way, become disoriented, or require assistance finding an exit. Yes, walking through holiday seasons without Dad and Reat has felt very much like this…
Because I could not listen to holiday music without sobbing, I became proficient in sports by listening to only sports radio in the car.
I asked my family if we could please find something different to do on Thanksgiving.
They obliged. On Thanksgiving Day, we served others. However, they snuck into a family celebration the next day. We had our own holiday meal together – turkey, stuffing, and pies. I brought the pies. Because Dad could not enjoy his favorite minced meat and Reat couldn’t have his favorite strawberry rhubarb, I brought and ate both of those, too. Indulging in what they couldn’t, helped me get a stomach ache and find a little joy.
In 2014, I simply did not want to experience a Christmas morning without Reat.
As a Christian, I celebrate Christmas. Christmas Eve has always been important and the family traditions we created for our family of four were the same every year. Our extended family attended a 5 pm Christmas Eve service together and were honored to walk the “light of Christ” into the sanctuary.
The year Reat and Dad died, as midnight approached, my fear and trepidation of the morning to come was overwhelming. So, I drove back to church on Christmas Eve night to attend our final Christmas Eve service of 2014, hoping this delay would help my heart not hurt so deeply. Inevitably, Christmas Day arrived, as did the tears, the sadness, the memories, and the pies.
Navigating the holidays after the loss of family members
After experiencing such dramatic trauma and pain in 2014, finding my way through holiday seasons – and other family celebrations and experiences – has been incredibly difficult. The navigation of such gatherings often digs up sad, painful, and angry feelings. Thankfully, I also know they can bring smiles, hugs, and pee-in-your-pants belly laughing!
The kitchen talk comes to mind. You know what I mean…as the people preparing the turkey, the stuffing, bread, and pies, all collide in the kitchen at one time vying for oven time and counter space. The squawking that takes place over who is setting the table and why the sound of TV or music must be on a high volume, all the time. The game pieces were strewn all over the living room floor. The pets darting here and there scrounging for a morsel of food from the littlest hands in the crowd. Every family should make a video of their holiday pre-meal time. This would surely invoke belly laughing.
Yes, there are sad times during the days, as we remember, with great love and fondness, those who are no longer holding our hands. As we contemplate the changes in our lives and think to ourselves, “How did my life turn out this way?”
We pray. We pray over the losses, we pray for us, we pray for our nation and for people in need all over the world…above all else, we pray for peace.
This holiday season is upon us. Decorations have appeared in stores and gift lists are being created and discussed.
We all know someone who has trepidation about their first holiday without a loved one or possibly with other difficult changes or circumstances in their lives (expected or unexpected). Seek them out, hold their hand, invite them over or go visit them. Remember the pie. You may not invoke a belly laugh, but a smile will surely lend some comfort. Helping another find peace and joy by escaping their pain, and helping yourself do the same – even for a few hours – is like eating a piece of your favorite pie.
In concert with helping others, our Faith Always Wins Foundation and Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance (KCIYA) are equipping high school students to lead, serve and grow based on the shared values we all possess, while also examining the differences between our religious and nonreligious communities through civil discourse.
You can help us with an upcoming service project: Project Neighborly Needs.
This year, we (Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance and Faith Always Wins Foundation) are collecting warm clothing items that will be distributed at the Project Neighborly Needs service project on Saturday, November 17th. Should you want to donate a clothing item, please email us to arrange a drop-off time before Friday, November 16th at 12:00 p.m.
If a youth (14-19 years of age) would like to volunteer with the Interfaith Youth Leadership Team at Project Neighborly Needs on Saturday, November 17th, 10:00 am-12:00 p.m., please click here to register.