At Christmas we naturally miss those family members and friends that are no longer here. It is a time for families to be together and sometimes when the people who made Christmas so special, are no longer here, it can make your celebrations difficult.
What if it was at Christmastime that you lost your loved ones? How do you celebrate such a joyous time then?
Christmas for me, like so many, had always been the one time of the year, as a kid, that I really looked forward to. I didn’t really know my dad’s side of the family, losing him so young and not getting to keep in contact with them. I never knew my grandpa, his dad, as he died on Christmas day in 1956…before I was even born! But my mom’s family was one group of absolutely fun and fabulous people! Our tradition as I grew up was opening presents at my mom’s on Christmas Eve and going to my Grandma Ritter’s on Christmas Day. When my Grandpa was alive he would call us all early telling us to get there! Grandma would cook us all breakfast, which meant with our family, dozens of eggs and all kinds of the small boxes of cereal for the little kids. This was sometimes the only day that I got to see some of my family, as they lived all over as families sometimes do when they are grown.
But then, grandma got older, and she was gone, too. So traditions changed. We had our own families, and we started our own traditions. We kept the tradition of opening presents here with our own family and Christmas Day we would go to my mom’s. For awhile. When the kids were younger we all went, but as Jamie got older, things changed and for a bit only some of us would go, until I decided that we should be together here.
But a few years ago, all of that changed. It was six years ago on Christmas, my sister and I were doing dishes, and talking about our mom. She was in the hospital and we thought we should go visit. She had been in there off and on and she was doing fine. But in a day, that all changed. The next morning the call went out….The family was called in. I talked about this before, so I won’t go into all the details. But we lost her on Dec 27th and buried her Dec 29th. I knew that the next Christmas would be hard but how hard, I would find out!
The next year, my mother in law, who was always a vital, busy lady, suddenly declined. She was put into the hospital in early December with low oxygen levels. There was enough concern to call my sister in law back to Iowa from across the country. And for two weeks, her children kept vigil and she kept declining. She was taken to hospice and just a couple hours later on December 23rd, five years ago today, she passed away.
Another Christmas, another mom, another grandma….gone. She was buried also on December 29th exactly one year after my mom. I remember telling my husband that I did not want to do this again the next year!
How do you find joy in a holiday season when you have suffered such loss during the same time? It is not easy. But you do it. For your kids. For yourself. Even for those that are gone. I try to honor them, remember them, keep traditions alive. We talk about them. Sometimes it is hard not to be sad as it is always seems that something is missing. But you have to find your joy and happiness in life. I still find it with family and friends. That is one tradition I don’t see ever changing.
We have a star on our tree that has kept lit for many years..never blinking. We didn’t even know it did until one year, while talking about family that were gone, it started to blink. I smiled thinking that just maybe they heard and were saying hello. Often since then, the same thing will happen. And no matter what, it makes me smile and makes me think of family.
Even though we have had some sad things happen at Christmas, I still look forward to this time of year. It is still my favorite time!
I hope that whatever this time of year brings to you, that you can find happiness, joy and love. We can miss and honor our loved ones gone. And we can love and honor those still with us!