The year I lost Rick, the holiday season came soon after his death. Determined to have a “normal” Christmas, I made it through the opening of gifts, dinner, the lighting of the candle on Baby Jesus’ birthday cake, and the singing of “happy birthday, dear Jesus.” Then, exhausted, I went to take a nap. When I woke up I just couldn’t get out of bed.
That Christmas was thirteen years ago. Since then, the joy of the season has returned.
Again this year, my family will have a different kind of Christmas. December 15th would have been my mother’s 98th birthday, but she went to be with Jesus nearly eight months ago. She’s celebrating her first Christmas in heaven.
Sheila and Sylvia, my two sisters who lived near Mom, will feel her absence the most deeply. My niece, Jessica, who also lives nearby, can’t remember a Christmas without her Grandma. My third sister, Brandilyn, and I are far away. We didn’t spend our Christmases with Mom. But we will miss her newsy family letter, her phone calls on Christmas day, her gifts, and most of all her laughter.
Our family calendar for December shows pictures of Mom taken a little over a year ago. Mom kicking high in the senior center dining room, demonstrating her Charleston moves. Posing for pictures with Sheila and Jessica. Three generations smiling together on a crisp fall day, Mom dressed in her trademark bright colors, a burgundy shirt with fancy beads around her neck. In every picture she is either smiling or laughing, displaying the beautiful teeth she had straightened at the age of 88.
My favorite, though, is of Mom and Sheila sitting on a bench, their heads lifted in uproarious laughter. I don’t know what was so funny, but I do know Mom loved to laugh. She saw humor in everything. I think of her now, laughing with joy in heaven.
If you have lost someone you love, your Christmas will be different. A loved one is missing from your table, and you have one less gift to buy. But as Mark Schultz says in his song, As we gather round the table, I see joy on every face and I realize what’s still alive is the legacy you made.
You may shed tears over your loss this Christmas season. It’s all right to experience sadness. It’s normal to feel pain. Maybe not this Christmas, but sometime in the future you’ll remember the good times and your memories will wrap around you like warm fleece.
You may be having a different kind of Christmas this year. Try to focus on the legacy of the person you loved and lost. Your memories can bring you comfort. They can bring you peace. Someday, they will bring you joy.
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