We have begun the breakneck race through what is known as the holiday season. We’ve just completed Thanksgiving weekend, and have run headlong into the Advent season, heading toward Christmas and New Years. This season usually feels like a blur to me, so much is going on. Everything is decorated up in a festive manner, so many meals, so many parties, so much to tend to. On my best days, it is almost overwhelming. Its been a year since I lost someone very special and very close to me.
Its been a hard year, to say the least. Every 30th of the month at 4:30 a.m., I remember it marks the day Antoine passed from this life to life eternal. Its interesting how we mark the passage of time; a day, an hour, a season. Its almost hard to comprehend it has been a year, it seems like yesterday and it seems a lifetime ago, all at the same time.
Last year’s holiday season I went the through the motions of the season, fairly numb and broken with grief. Its been a year now, and I’m just not sure what to feel. Every day I remember him, and all he meant to me. I recall the passing of time as time when he left me. Maybe its time to modify my thinking and remembering. Maybe its time to see it as the time when Antoine stopped hurting, stopped struggling, stopped feeling the weight of his condition. Maybe its time for me to remember Antoine in the way he would want. Remembering him for the love he shared, the laughter and the tears, the good times and the not so good, all of it as a special and precious time that blessed my life and his.
The holiday season is hard, no doubt about it. Its harder when we are grieving the loss of someone special who will not be with us to share the time. Maybe there is a better way to approach this season, than feeling so alone and so mournful. Nothing, of course, can make our loss less painful. Nothing will ever replace the hole in our life and hearts where loved one’s once were.
The key, I believe, to working our way through these holidays may be found in where we place our focus. We get so used to focusing on our loved ones, we place them in the center of our celebrations. Of course we do, our world revolves around them. We have to ask ourselves though, what do the holidays represent, what are they all about?
Thanksgiving is a time we set aside to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. We are truly blessed with so much. Would we ever thank someone for a gift, and then follow it up with something like, “this gift is nice, but I really wish I had been given…”? Of course we wouldn’t. We show gratitude for what we are given, not ingratitude for what we don’t have.
Advent has always been a special time for me. I love the retelling of the story of the promise of a savior to come. I love the pageantry and build up to the time of Jesus’ birth. I love the sacred moment we remember Christ was born and is born. The season of Advent has always been overshadowed by the season of shopping, and partying, and consumption. Not quite what the season is supposed to be about. Advent is a time of quiet reflection on how God promised to be with us. Its a time when we not only remember the promise, but we ready ourselves to receive the promise. Is it really a time for revelry and partying? I can only speak for me, but all the festivities tend to take my focus off the intention of Advent. When I allow myself to get caught up in the season, I can make it more about preparations of food and drink, preparations of buying gifts, preparations that include those I love. These aren’t bad things, but they do sort of skew me away from where my real focus should be.
Christmas comes in all its glory. We build and build the excitement and expectation until the day finally arrives. When it does arrive, we are so excited to share gifts with those we love. To experience and see others experience the joy of opening gifts. The gifts, in a way, are a representation of what we feel for the other person. Is this really what Christmas should be? Should our focus be on what we give to those we love, and what we receive from them? We want to show our loved ones we care. We want to show our loved ones what they mean to us. The day however, is Christmas. Its the day God shows us how much we mean to God. Its the day we remember how God became present to us.
New Year’s Day is the day we get to move into a time of renewal and freshness. Its a day to be done with the old year, and looking forward to a chance to do new things in new ways. The year yawns before us, beckoning us to put away old habits, old ways, and to approach the time as a new beginning. We mark the day with parties and meals. Those are not bad things or ways, but for those who are alone, they can feel even more lonely. The focus though should be on what new opportunities God has laid before us. The focus should be on what and where God is leading us in the days ahead.
As I reflect on the many blessings in my life, and all that God has given me, I remember. I remember I was blessed to have someone special who loved me for me. I remember that for a time, I was blessed to share real love. When Thanksgiving, or Advent, or Christmas, or New Years comes, my heart can focus on those days in a way that recalls what has been, but also what will be. I will always miss the one’s I’ve loved who are no longer with me. I will, however, take note of how their memory makes the days sweeter. I can appreciate the times of the season, because for me, the season will always be enhanced because of how God blessed me with them.
For those who are struggling this holiday season with loss, with pain, with grief, I want to assure you God sees and God knows. Let God hold you now, and let your memories be a special gift and blessing.
Your fellow traveler on the Way,