This will be our second Christmas without him.
He never said much. The adjective “quiet” fit him to a T. Still, he was there for everything. Impromptu dinners, horse-riding competitions, graduations, and especially Christmas. There’s just something about sitting on the couch next to your grandpa while “Miracle on 34th Street” plays on the Hallmark Channel.
Last Christmas was definitely the hardest holiday ever. We did well, Mama, Daddy, Grandma, my brothers, and I, but I kept wishing we had a need to pull one more extra chair up next to the dining room table.
This Christmas will only be our second without that strong, steady presence and wood-shaving-and-laundry-detergent scent that clung to his plaid shirts, so I don’t pretend to be an expert. But I have learned three things about combining grief and celebration. I’ll be holding these truths close come Christmas.
Acknowledge it will be different.
I hated admitting it was true. But I knew it couldn’t possibly be the same without him. So I accepted it. Then I railed about it. I accepted it again. I cried out to God about how much I loathed it. Finally, I thanked God for the eighteen Christmases I got to share with that great man and I realized just how important it is to…
Take time to be sad.
No matter how hard I tried, I failed at forcing joy in the weeks leading up to December 25th. Oh, there was joy; lots of it, in fact. I love Christmas. December is still my favorite month — I am looking forward to it this year as much as I ever have. The day we celebrate our Savior’s birthday is still in my favorite month — that hasn’t changed. The sparkling tree will ever be one of my favorite things to gaze at.
But there was still a hole when at last the day dawned last year.
I came to realize that the hole only stretched wider when I tried to stuff it closed with false bravado. So finally I let myself cry. I smiled at old pictures and got weepy as I remembered special memories. I looked ahead to days on which I’d miss him (today happens to be one of them) and I reached for the tissues. There’s something healing about tears. As my grandma says, God gave us tears for a reason: to let them out every once in a while.
Make the day special for someone else.
I learned that lesson anew when I felt somber and sad during the Sunday service the weekend before Thanksgiving and Mama asked me to grab an extra Turkey card or two (something the children in the church were given so they could put pennies in it for a children’s home in the upstate). There I was, thinking about how lonely I was and how I didn’t want to have Thanksgiving without Grandpa, when that simple Turkey card reminded me of just how blessed I am to live in a home with a family that loves me.
This Christmas I want to be a blessing to someone else, whether that be a friend, a coworker, a classmate, or a complete stranger. Maybe I’ll set up a Skype visit with a good friend or offer to babysit so my coworker can get her Christmas shopping done. Maybe I’ll smile at a tired woman in the mall. (I feel better already, just thinking of the possibilities.)
This was a hard post to write. I cried throughout most of it, but I hope and pray that it has blessed you in some way.
If you’re facing a hard holiday this year, what are some of the things you have learned about wanting to cry on Christmas?