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Christmas & Grief

Dear Mom,
I haven’t written you in awhile. It isn’t because I’m not thinking of you. On the contrary, it’s a daily, if not hourly reoccurence. It’s been officially 10 months and 3 days since you left and we’re approaching the time of year that I’m dreading possibly the most, this first round of holidays without you here.  I’ve felt a little bit at a loss for words for much of 2017, which is saying something considering I’ve had verbal diarrhea most of my life. I’m never at a loss for words. But you were always my unofficial proofreader, sometimes censor, to a point. And as it turns out, maybe also my unofficial audience. Maybe it really was to you that I was unconsciously writing this entire time. Could that be?

It’s been a whirlwind first semester of 4th grade for Jude. Oh how I wish you could see him! He’s so tall and handsome and he’s changed so much in the past year. We talk about you often, and he always says the most profound and comforting things about you, how you’re with us even when you’re not really here. I am in awe of him.

And at the same time, I’m wishing you were around to tell me how to survive his tween and adolescence. I feel woefully unprepared, and while he’s such a great kid overall, he is still human. I think back to all the times I was nasty to you at this particular age. How do you keep from going ape on these kids?

Thanksgiving was last week, and if I’m being honest, I dreaded it. We had a big Shingleton family cruise that we all went on, and it was scheduled long before you died. But I still felt like I was running away. Like I was escaping the terribleness of being at Buckboard Lane with everybody there, except you. Like I’m prolonging the inevitable. And so I cried for two days because it just felt so damn horrible. Unfathomable. Wretched. But … still more manageable than it did previously. I’m learning how to sit well with my grief, relieved almost that I’m allowed to feel sad. It arrives, unceremoniously, pushy, unwelcome, but I nod to acknowledge it and let it in.

The worst part of this grief business was from your birthday in April until just after my birthday in May (let’s not even talk about how stupid terrible Mother’s Day was). The shock had worn off and it was real, what had happened. The days were brutally long, and the emotion felt so great. And the ensuing summer months were a welcome relief. No schedule – just plenty of time to rest, rejuvenate and be. I cried on the trip to Florida because that house was so spectacular – you would have been jumping up and down with joy over it. It was magnificent in the way that you appreciated and grand in the way that you liked to spoil us all.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

But with the holidays approaching, my grief has crept up the back of my throat again, clinging to me like a baby monkey on it’s mother’s back. I try to give in to it when it happens, knowing that I can’t ignore it – it will only get louder. And it shows up at the most inopportune moments somehow. Sometimes I can see it coming and other times I can’t. It’s a less heavy burden than it used to be, but I still carry it. We all do. To go through all these major family holidays without you is paralyzing and gut-wrenchingly awful.

O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go.

O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.

So the challenge is greater this year, to find JOY in the season despite our circumstances. Advent – the anticipation of Jesus, of the  great Savior of the World who will redeem all of us from the wretchedness of this world- feels especially profound to me.  We groan in our shared suffering, this entire broken world. We need a Savior to rescue us from ourselves, from the nonstop reckoning of our sin.

O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.

I love you, Mom. And I miss you. We carry on, but wow – what a hole you’ve left behind.

 

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