I also have become more fully aware of the other side of the holidays as I grow older. Despair, loneliness, and memories of those that are no longer here.
Honestly, Christmas is a time that many people would rather sleep through and avoid, praying for January to roll on in.
I understand this fully. My prayers are with you.
What would we have without our memories? Good memories also include the ones of despair and loneliness. It’s how life works, making a way for us to enjoy the great ones, it often bring lessons we’ve learned from the previous.
I write mushy, emotional blogs I know. I have written about Christmas more than any other. While it may appear that all is glorious for me during this season, sometimes nothing is further from the truth. I, as many of you, struggle with keeping my holiday spirit. I have always asked God to help me use my struggles to be more sympathetic toward others that walk down some of my same paths. He continues to do this faithfully. Today, I am trusting that He will use this blog.
I grew up in a loving environment. I was very blessed with the family that I had been given. I had great family members, and awesome friends. I had more than one “best friend” for this I am truly thankful.
One of my “bestest” friends throughout my life was a close relative. My grandmother, Birdie. I am her namesake. (okay this is major for those that didn’t know my first name!! LOL) I called her “mamaw” or “granny”
She was my friend. Other than my own mother, she was the epitome of “unconditional love” that I experienced. I would stay at her home continually. On the way home from school, it was my first stop before reaching home. Everyday. I spent most weekends with her. She made me hot tea, played checkers until I couldn’t hold my eyes open. She kept an open jar of salted peanuts close by as we watched Bonanza together most evenings, snuggled around her coal stove.
She never allowed anyone to make fun of my name. She knew all too well what this was like. She asked my mother not to name me after her for this reason, but it was given to me out of love. Today, it has become a pet name for me at times…and I don’t mind it anymore.
Time passes, and we think that things will always remain the same. We learn differently.
I fast forward to the year I am 17 years old, enjoying time at the beach with my family. My grandmother didn’t like the water or sand, but she enjoyed being with us. She doesn’t feel well. We decide to shorten our beach time and come home. Life changes in an instant. It doesn’t wait for convenience, a more appropriate time. I remind myself daily of this. It only takes one diagnosis, one phone call, or one tragic moment to change your course.
We spend the next months battling. Caring. Rearranging life to make hers better. My senior year of high school is only half day. I drive home everyday so my mother can sleep. She stays by her mother’s bedside, awake and continuing to care and comfort. She is exhausted physically and it takes its toll on all of us. Extended family, immediate family, friends of our family, they all do what they can.
It’s December. Presents have all been wrapped and under the tree. We all tried to function normally. There is no normal this year. My grandmother would continue to tell us Merry Christmas every day for weeks.
She loved Christmas as much as I do. She made pacts with me as a child concerning presents. She unwrapped things and carefully re-wrapped. She could not contain herself. We would eventually learn to refrain from putting them under the tree, keeping her out of them. We sure had some giggles over presents!
The month of December was a mixed bag of emotions for us that year. Everyday was lived like it would be her last. She was tired. She told us she just wanted to go home. I was selfish, I told her she couldn’t go yet.. it was almost Christmas and she had no clue this year what her presents were! She would smile and only whisper “I love you, niecy” but she never told me she would stay.
I was not in her room that evening. I had chosen to sit with family in our living room. The only indication was the sound of my own mother’s sobs.
On Christmas Eve, she made her journey. She would experience Christmas in a way that we couldn’t fathom. She was home.
A joyous occasion for her, but one that left many scars on my family. We would ignore the sight of our tree, the presents left there until way past January. Life had happened – the ugly part. Christmas was never the same for my mother. I understand this part of her now.
I understand this for my friends…my other family members that experience the lonely part of the season. I have shared my heart for this very reason today. I can say that it doesn’t go away with time, but it does get a little more bearable. Moments and memories become your comfort, your lifeline. God pours into your very soul, peace – the kind that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)
My prayer is that you hold on to that peace. Surround yourself in it. Know that I share your pain..but more importantly, I share your promise of peace during this holiday season.
In closing, I am sharing my favorite lyrics from the song “Christmas in Heaven” may you tresasure this glimpse of God’s grace and peace….
Is the snow falling down on the streets of gold
Are the mansions all covered in white
Are you singing with angels silent night
I wonder….. what Christmas in Heaven is like.