Christmas without Mom...Joy & Grief
I was warned that Christmas would be hard, and honestly, I didn’t really expect it to be. It’s a predictable day for grief to hit. That’s not how it’s worked for me. I was just telling a friend that the big days haven’t been the difficult ones. The one month’s anniversary of Mom’s death was a sweet day. Mom’s birthday was not sad. I was explaining to my friend that grief has hit me randomly. And, sometimes, it’s hit really hard. Overwhelmingly hard. But, never at an expected time- or a time I could plan for. But, that has not held true for Christmas.
Last night, Christmas Eve, it overcame me. “It” is my new friend, grief. We’re becoming well acquainted. In fact, I’m growing to appreciate him. (Apparently grief is male.) Grief normally doesn’t like to follow predictable time schedules, but, he surprised me last night and showed up on Christmas Eve.
We had spent the afternoon and evening with my in-laws. It was a pleasant and sweet night. But, I’d been irritable at Caleb all day. Making little rude comments. On the way to my mother-in-laws house I got a message from a friend that read, “Hey Kate!! Thinking of you . I had a good cry today....Sending you a big big first Christmas without our moms.” (Oh, thank you God for friends who are in the same situation as I am.) I read this note and quickly put it out of my mind. I wanted to focus on my wonderful, alive-and-well, parents by marriage. And, I did, and it was a good night of gifts, food, candlelight service at their church, and too much dessert.
Once home, Caleb let me know he was hurt by the way I’d been treating him. Understandably so. Well, that comment from him was what it took. The floodgates opened and I cried myself to sleep. My sweet husband petted my hair and was quietly sad with me as I cried and cried and cried. Isn’t it strange how your heart actually hurts when you grieve like that.
I’m reading a book about Heaven right now, and I’m finally starting to get excited for Mom. It’s not that I didn’t already know about Heaven, but, for some reason, it has not been comforting to me to think of Mom there. It hasn’t been disturbing either. Just, neutral. But, I’m slowly becoming happy for Mom that she’s in Paradise...out of her pain...with Jesus. The reason, I think, that it’s been hard to focus on Heaven is that my mom loved this life. She LIVED fully. Even her last week of life she was fully ALIVE. Constantly on the go. It was so hard for her to obey the doctor’s orders to rest. So, although my theology tells me Mom is so much happier where she is now, it’s hard to imagine. She was so full of joy here. And it was so nice for all of us to have here HERE.
Right now, it’s very early Christmas morning. I’m actually awake before my kids (they’re usually dragging us out of bed on Christmas). And I’m excited to watch them open presents and eat too much candy, but, I have to be honest, it’s very sad to think of showing up to Dad’s house with our basket of gifts, and not have Mom greet us at the door. She’d be wearing her ornament earrings, her pen (from the 80’s) reading “Jesus is the reason for the season” and her big smile.
I am going to bake the cheesy sausage biscuits she made every Christmas morning. But, of course, today will not be the same without her here. But, that’s good. That reminds me that I got to live with a mom who made every Holiday better. Who treated me in a way that made me want to be with her. Who LOVED and LIVED really big (despite her 5’3’’ stature). It reminds me to be that for my family. To love hard and live joyfully.
Surely the Christmas story is one that inspires joy. The angels sang joyous songs to the shepherds when Jesus was born. “But the angel said to them (the shepherds), “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2) The thing that sustained Jesus in the dark hours of Gethsemane was the hope of joy beyond the cross (Hebrews 12).