5 more days until Christmas!!!!!! 5 more days until Jolly St. Nick pays us a visit. The holidays are upon us and we have just 5 more days until the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time of giving, goodwill and hope for the future.
There was a time in my life when I would get so excited this time of year I could barely concentrate or sleep. I would fight to stay awake just to catch a glimpse of Santa and his reindeer.
But this year is different. This year is my first Christmas without my best friend, my Dad. For countless families suffering the death of a friend or loved one, a major illness or a family breakup, it is difficult to celebrate.
Christmas is an enchanted day when the world stands still. Nothing bad happens on Christmas. This must be true, because it was repeated on my new favorite show, “This is Us.” Christmas is bundled with countless hopes and dreams—all tied in exquisite red and gold bows neatly tucked under our Christmas trees.
But this Christmas started as a season of profound heartache and sorrow. My family is surrounded not just by missing presents but a missing presence. Our family is overwhelmed by the empty chairs and sadness throughout our home. The toys on my tree that once were the map of my childhood are now a reminder of the horrific loss our family is enduring. Just looking at certain ornaments brings back memories too painful to remember. This Christmas I decided to leave the toys in a box neatly stowed for when I am ready…next year perhaps.
This Christmas I did not send out Christmas cards. I spent 2016 learning how to live without a person of significance, I saw no need to send friends and family a photo of me wearing my grief mask. Smiling was tough this year, finding happiness was at times exhausting. This Christmas I decided against holiday cards…next year perhaps.
This entire holiday season I have been walking around wearing my very own invisible armor. My armor protects me from captivating memories that throw me into the ebb and flow of grief leaving me helpless, drowning in tears. My armor preserves my sanity and allows me to function during the holiday season when I see a father daughter duo in public. They could just be standing there minding their own business, but throw some Christmas carols in the mix, a Santa and some holiday cheer and I’m a mess. This invisible armor protects me from sobbing in public and causing a scene. I was doing so well, my armor was shielding me and my half assed decorated tree was proudly standing in our living room.
And then with the blink of an eye my already broken heart was smashed.
My better half, my life preserver when I am drowning in my waves of grief was injured. He was injured so severe that our entire quality of life changed in an instant. What we thought was a simple pulled back became a nightmare. I watched in horror as yet another man I love suffered in pain. I was ready to give Christmas a rain check. See ya in 2017 St. Nick!
Wait, nothing bad happens on Christmas right?
My armor was ripped off without my permission, and I was thrown into survival mode. Together we researched doctors, surgeons, hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. I was watching my better half endure similar horrific nerve pain my father endured for years. Once again I was given front row seats to watch someone I love suffer. At that moment I decided that Christmas was cancelled. I stopped decorating and started avoiding anything that was jolly or holly. I was slowly turning into the Grinch and I knew it.
And then it went from bad to worse. With heavy, shattered hearts we rushed to New York city Friday morning for emergency surgery. We drove the same route my father took when he went to Sloan Kettering, only this time we stopped at The Hospital for Special Surgery. Only this time we had a real solution and hope. After a long, emotional day we were told the surgery was a success. The recovery would be long and exhausting, but it was a success. Suddenly the holiday lights were shining a little brighter, and my heart wasn’t as heavy.
We returned home the next day and my Christmas spirit started peeking out again. I ran upstairs to the attic and began placing all the toys on the tree, everything…even the ones that didn’t match my “theme”. My half assed decorated Christmas tree was now a cluttered map to my heart. The silly Boston Terrier ornament we purchased in NYC years ago was proudly hanging right over the glass angel my father gave me years ago. All of it proudly on display for our guests to hold my hand and walk down memory lane, and if I cry it’s okay because I am chosing to love and honor my father on my first Christmas without him.
Instead of focusing on my pain, I’m focusing on the fact that I had a magnificent childhood and a friendship that created a strong lifetime bond with my father. Instead of focusing on what it is missing, I’m concentrating on what’s here. Instead of being sad that my Dad isn’t with our family, laughing and enjoying his favorite meals, I’m choosing to focus on the fact that my family can enjoy his favorite meals and they are laughing as we remember my Dad.
I’m reminding myself that there is joy in the unexpected and life is a beautiful ride.
Holidays after the loss of a loved one is difficult. Life is constantly throwing curve balls. But life does not stop because a tragedy occurred. Life keeps going and it’s up to us if we choose to enjoy the ride.
The true meaning of Christmas is not the gifts with red and gold bows tucked under our Christmas trees. It is the everlasting hope because of our Savior—hope for today and for an eternity of tomorrows.
Like what you just read and want more?