As I prepare myself for the holidays, I always think of family and friends that will be absent. I recall people who've passed with fond memories and wish for one more Christmas with them. Morgan Asbury is a fellow author who writes "Wednesday's Words" for one of the loops to which I belong. I was so touched by her post last week, I wanted to share it with you. Morgan has given her permission to post the following:
The next two weeks, for most of us, will be filled with joy and excitement as the end of the year festivities approach. We'll be shopping and baking and making merry. There is something uplifting about hearing those old songs by Crosby and Clooney as the snow falls and the city becomes even more festooned with lights and garlands and such. But for some people, this can be one of the hardest times of the year.
This is something I've always known, and always considered myself sensitive to. But of course, I'm even more sensitive to it now than in years past.
Last year at this time I was still in a state of deep mourning, and even as I composed my Wednesday's Words each week, trying hard to reach beyond my own grief from the death of my son, I hadn't yet shared my tragedy with you.
As you who have faithfully read my essays know, I saw a counselor for a few months beginning in the spring to help me get through the worst of the depression that I fell into. It did help enormously to have someone to talk to, and I encourage anyone who is suffering from ongoing depression to likewise reach out for help.
One of the things I've struggled with in the last month or so was the nature of how we would celebrate this Christmas.
Last year, we went ahead and bought gifts for the grandchildren, our own kids, and even for each other, but we had no tree in our home, and for the most part just tried to get through the season. There was a memorial service at the funeral home, and that helped. But mostly, I just prayed for it all to be over.
This year, we'll do better. I've decided that the answer for us is a slight change in tradition.
The last Christmas we had Anthony with us was the Christmas of 2005—the Christmas before last. When the kids had been small, and we lived right next to the Quarry where my husband works, securing our Christmas tree had simply been a matter of Dad and kids trekking to the bush behind the house, onto Quarry land (with permission, of course), to chop down the best candidate for the job. We began that tradition with our firstborn bundled up and in a sleigh. As the kids got older, Mom bowed out of the bush-tromping, electing instead to stay home and have the hot chocolate ready for the triumphant return. The Christmas before last, we drove to that same Quarry (where hubby still works and we still had permission), and Anthony and David and I spent a good and funny couple of hours once more in the quest for the perfect tree.
I doubt very much that we'll ever have a real tree again.
This year, I bought an artificial one. It's sitting right here in my office, still in the box. We'll set it up, and decorate it, likely on Sunday. And when we do, there will be all new decorations upon it.
No, I haven't tossed out the old decorations. I'm keeping them, with the hope that there may be a time when I will be able to bear to display them again. A family that's been a family as long as ours has accumulated several ornaments with sentimental value. But I'm taking this one step at a time. For this Christmas, at least, they'll stay tucked away.
Another event that is taking place this week that will by happy coincidence help with the re-establishment of our celebration is that our firstborn and his family are moving into a new house.
They'd been looking for a new house for a long time. Both my son and daughter-in-law swear they had been to every open house in their city in the past several years. The minute they stepped foot in this particular house, they both knew it was theirs.
When we visited with them a week or so ago, I suggested it would be nice if they were to host Christmas this year in their new house, and they agreed.
We'll do some things the same as always. There'll be the usual treats and feasts; gifts will be exchanged; and I'm sure that New Year's Eve will see this old couple perched in front of the TV as always, watching a ball drop in far away New York City.
But some things will be different, too, as we very deliberately seek to establish new traditions—ones that aren't wrapped in old memories.
If there are people you know who will be struggling to get through this holiday season without newly lost loved ones, take a moment, if you will, and pay attention to them. Don't insist they do what they always have done if they're struggling with the holiday; you have no idea how powerful those special memories can be. For some, the old traditions may be what they want more than anything. For others, though, the answer may lie in taking a fresh approach. Yes, there likely will come a time when those old memories can comfort and heal, but that time may not be now.
But mostly, what you can do is just be there. Of all the elements that go into celebrating this time of year, the one I cherish the most is time spent with those I love. It's that human connection that forms the base of every experience, and every emotion. It's what keeps us grounded when the world around us seems to be spinning either too fast, or in the wrong direction.
It's what Christmas is really all about.
Please visit Morgan's Website for more information. You might want to contact her and wish her a happy holiday. She certainly put mine into perspective.