After all of the times I have recognized the need to be sensitive, that not everyone is celebrating the holy-days, this year was especially tough. Dad died last year on December 26th. It was the first Christmas without him.
When your parent dies it feels like you got automatically registered for a special club that you never wanted to be a part of but only people in the club can really understand what it’s like. I knew losing a parent would be tough but I had no idea how tough. I am still learning day by day, week by week, month by month just how hard it is.
Now, what is especially strange for me is that I am a words person. Words come quickly and easily for me. Not this time. It feels like there has been a slow boil underneath everything, a slow rolling grief that is latent, underneath it all. Words cannot adequately describe or explain the grief. Often the only way I know the grief is there is that I find myself being more sensitive to things than I normally am. By sensitive I mean more easily annoyed. Things irritate me much more quickly than they used to. More times than not, this irritation comes as a surprise because I am not typically that way. After some self-reflection I realize just how sad I really am.
This Christmas was a difficult one. It was difficult because one doesn’t normally think to visit the cemetery around Christmas but that was one of the big things we needed to do this year. We needed to remember. We needed to grieve. We needed to tell stories. We needed to celebrate, through tears. Man that’s tough but you cannot ignore reality. You have to look the ugliness in the face and accept that it is true and real and present.
It was a hard Christmas and there aren’t many things that really make it much better this close to the event of dad’s passing. There are a few things that I cling on to. First, I know he is with the Lord. Second, his condition wasn’t going to get better. Third, we prayed for resolution to his health issues and this is the answer, for now…not the final answer, just an answer. That is what gives us hope. The rest of the story isn’t in our hands. It isn’t on our schedule. We can’t make it happen, speed it up, or slow it down. Only God knows when that time will come when He finally comes and makes all things new (Rev 21:5).
Maranatha and Merry Christmas are two phrases that are now inexorably intertwined in our vocabulary. It is a difficult tension but there is beauty in it as well. So Merry Christmas and Lord come quickly!
The first two Christmases I was in New Zealand, there was a lady in the church whose husband had died on Christmas. That was also their wedding day. Although he had been dead many years, she always needed to go visit his grave. I didn’t understand then, but I know more now why she felt it was necessary – especially since Mom died 3 years ago this last July.
Just never forget the women who went to the grave to grieve, found it empty, and became the first to announce the good news the HE IS RISEN! Because of that we do not need to grieve in the same way as those who have no hope. Remember Jesus standing at another grave where his dear friend was buried – and he wept. By his tears, he blesses our tears as he shares our grief. I know you know these things, and knowing them does not take away the pain. It does help though to know that HE knows and understands.
Thank you Jerry! What a great reminder of what is truly most important.
I think it is always noticeable when someone is missing from the table at the holidays, no matter how many years it has been. Someone might sit in it to give the impression that there is no empty place and to make it look normal. I know firsthand that the cofC doesn’t really acknowledge the deceased and those who grieve at any time during the year like liturgical churches, e.g. All Saints. In the really old Union Prayer Book before the mourner’s kaddish at the end of every Sabbath service, there is a prayer for mourners which reads “it is Thy mercy which bestows life, it is Thy wisdom which calls Thy children home to Thee.” I find it interesting in that human nature would be to think the opposite.