I thought it wouldn’t.
But it did.
It happened again this year.
Kenny G was belting out jazzy, holiday cheer. A burning candle wafted a delicious candy cane scent. I was home by myself happily decorating our house for Christmas. I pulled a yellowed and torn rectangular box out of the large Rubbermaid storage bin and chuckled to myself. This box has to be nearly 60 years old.
Carefully wrapped inside was a slender, shiny tree topper that graced my parents’ Christmas trees for decades. It wasn’t the original which came in the now-yellowed box, but a replacement topper that my folks must have decided to store in there after the original one broke. ( I can just hear my Mom saying: Why throw away a perfectly good box?)
My Dad passed away in 2010 and my Mom in 2013, so afterward my only brother, my three girls and I divvied up their ornaments. I gave my brother the raggedy little cloth Santa figurine we both used to fight about hanging on the tree every year. My poor Mother used to keep track of whose turn it was. I have no idea why we thought that was the best decoration–I stopped believing in Santa as a 2-year-old when I easily recognized one of my Mom’s brothers dressed up in the red and white suit handing me my gifts. After that my parents apparently didn’t even bother trying to fool my little brother.
But he and I both remembered the tree topper–Dad always put it on because he was the only one who could reach the top of our freshly cut tree. My brother said I could have it–after all, I’d sacrificed the Santa.
So this year, for the second time since my last parent has been gone, I pulled out that shiny green ornament. I didn’t put it on our tree, but instead lovingly placed it in an antique glass pitcher filled with a bunch of my parents’ old, brightly colored ornaments. I added a strand of beads which used to encircle their tree, stepped back and surveyed my decorating work.
Perfect. Classy. Very antique-looking and out of the reach of our six grandchildren under age six. And then it started. A lump in my throat. I swallowed hard, but it grew. I felt my eyes misting and then quickly hot, tears began to sting as I tried to hold them back. Within seconds I went from happily satisfied to sadly sobbing.
I miss my Mom and my Dad. I don’t want their ornaments…I want them!
I sat down on the couch and wept. Big tears and loud sobs followed by necessary nose-blowing.
And that’s what grief does to us. It sneaks up on us when we’re not expecting it and it won’t let go until we’ve allowed it to have its say.
Have you experienced grief sneaking up on you this season? A sound, a smell, a word, a photo–something– triggers a memory and you come undone.
There’s someone special you are missing this Christmas.
Maybe it’s the first Dec. 25 that a certain smiling face won’t be in your home or maybe it’s the second or third year you can’t buy them a special gift. Or maybe it’s been 20 or 30 years, but you still yearn for just one more holiday with that loved one around your table.
I get it. I had my parents until they were in the 80s and I was in my late 50s and somehow I thought it would be less painful to say good-bye. But my love for them wasn’t lessened because of their ages–it just kept growing. And actually now that they’re gone, it keeps growing even more as I realize anew all the things they did for me and I come to truly appreciate the gift of their love. I expect to keep grieving them for the rest of my life.
And if I am feeling such intense grief over my parents, I can only imagine the sorrow some of you face while missing a spouse this Christmas or the deepest, most unnatural pain of all experienced by those of you who have buried a son or daughter.
Or maybe the person or persons you’re missing haven’t passed away, but miles or circumstances are separating you this year. As hard as you try, it just doesn’t seem right with them not here for the holidays. That’s grief you are feeling, too.
Maybe you can’t even get out the Christmas decorations this year. It’s just too painful. That’s OK. My friend Connie whose husband Brad literally dropped dead of a heart attack at age 47 recalls that she didn’t feel like celebrating Christmas just three months after his passing.
“I felt horrible because I did not want to celebrate Jesus’ birth because of Brad’s death,” admitted Connie.
But a good friend gave her some insight which really helped her ease that holiday pain.
“Do you know what Jesus is doing this Christmas season?” the friend asked Connie.
Connie shook her head “no.”
“He’s weeping. He’s weeping with you.”
Connie said that mental image of Jesus shedding tears with her helped her to stop worrying about all the holiday celebrations. Instead, she prayed: “Just for today, I need to see Jesus. Just for today, I need to seek Jesus. Just for today, I need to serve Jesus.”
Are you missing someone this Christmas? Jesus–yes, the whole Reason for the season–is weeping with you. Go ahead: acknowledge and feel your grief. Remember that Jesus understands your sorrow (Isaiah 53:3) even if no one else on earth really does. And then join Connie in her prayer that today you will see Jesus, that today you will seek Jesus, and that today you will serve Jesus. It’s a prayer He longs to answer for you.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18
I’ve included two music videos of the same song below because I really loved both very different renditions. The first is a beautiful harmony by Vocal Point, an all-male a capella ensemble and the second is an angelic sounding a capella boys’ choir called Libera.
(If the music videos don’t show below, please copy and paste to listen at: