The holidays are upon us, and many of us are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who will not be with us this Christmas of 2012. For those who have lost a child, this may be the first Christmas without that precious family member, and some find making merry almost a mockery of their grief and loss. An acquaintance of ours wouldn’t celebrate the holidays for years after she lost her beautiful teenage daughter to cancer. While I respect her right to decide how she was best able to cope, it’s not a way I’d personally recommend to deal with a loss.
Too often grief can become so singularly focused and all-consuming we cut off our remaining loved ones, including our surviving children or spouse of those closest to us. The rituals of the holidays are not meant to be painful reminders of formers joys. Those ageless traditions can help us reclaim the good times, the joyful memories, if we let them. I could actually imagine my mother checking in on me that first Christmas she was gone to make sure I was carrying on as she would expect me to do, caring for her loved ones in the way she would have done if she could have.
Hunter was four years old when our neurosurgeon confirmed that his brain tumor was definitely growing, and that he was going to need cancer treatment. That year when I put up our tree it actually became paramount to me to maintain the normalcy of the holiday season, to continue those traditions my mother had passed on to me, from decking the halls to baking homemade sugar cookies to having as many family members as could make it to a large family gathering for a meal. There was a personal comfort in transforming our personal space to reflect the holiday season, in attending church together, in singing the traditional Christmas carols.
Christmas is about love, about God loving all us so much that he sent his son as a tiny little baby into this world to redeem it. There is no greater love than that. Let’s find a way to celebrate that with joy. When we wake up to a crayon-filled sunrise, we reaffirm the birth of a new day, and that we have the breath, the sight, the heart to embrace it. We, the survivors, we need to commemorate our loved ones, their memory by living to the fullest the life they held so dear, the life they did embrace so joyfully.
Invite somebody lonely to your house for the holidays. Buy a Christmas gift for a child who won’t have much Christmas if you don’t. Take a couple of plates of sugar cookies to the closest nursing home. Help make Christmas dinner for those who would otherwise have none at the nearest homeless shelter. Count your many blessings and find a way to pass it on. That’s truly what your loved ones would want, because they’ve discovered the real meaning of Christ’s love.