Tomorrow is Thanksgiving – a day of gratitude for the blessings in our lives. For most, it is also a day of gathering with family and friends, football games and all that wonderful food!
Thinking about the holidays this year has been difficult for me. It is not just about the fresh grief of losing my parents and other loved ones, but also about the fact that this year would’ve been our time to spend the holiday with my family in Pennsylvania. Due to some unforeseen situations, I was not able to make the trip happen to spend time with my siblings and their families, so I was also feeling down about that. We later found out that my in-laws (who live locally) had made plans to spend both holidays traveling to other family locations. And BAM – there I was, feeling utterly depressed.
I attended a special class about dealing with the holiday season when you are in grief, and it spoke about it being ok to be sad. We also talked about how it was ok to celebrate the holidays if we felt up to it. Our group discussed ideas on how to make new traditions or considering alternative options for the holidays – something that might pull you out of the sadness. All good ideas, but nothing seemed to move me. I just had no interest in celebrating the holidays.
Thanksgiving was one thing, but thinking of Christmas rendered me nearly catatonic.
One night, while talking to my youngest sister about my holiday gloom, she said that decorating for and celebrating Christmas was a way of honoring my parents. I didn’t really get what she was saying and my initial thought was that Christmas (for Christians) is the time to celebrate the birth of Christ. I could do that through prayer and study and church services. I didn’t need presents and decorations to do that. And while I loved my parents, Christmas wasn’t exactly about honoring them
It just so happened that this was the week my husband chose to begin the decluttering of the attic! Down two flights of stairs came every single box, bag and storage container that had anything to do with Christmas. In my holiday mood, it was the LAST thing I wanted to do. For three evenings we went through every last one of those Christmas items – deciding what would be kept and what should be thrown out, sold or donated.
As we went through the process, I came across a box. This is a special box – designated only for ornaments from my Mom. Each year, for as long as I could remember, my Mom had given us an ornament at Christmas. I am not a big lover of commercial tree decorations and over the years of Mom’s gifts we had more than enough to decorate a full tree. They were all individual, some crafty and some symbolic, but all special. As I looked at this box of ornaments I began to think about my parents and slowly began to realize what my sister had been trying to tell me.
See my parents LOVED Christmas.
Well, actually, they loved all the holidays and decorated their home and yard for every one of them. But Christmas – well let’s just say they gave the Griswolds a run for their money! Every room, every corner of the yard and deck would be overflowing with lights and decorations. It was a sight to be seen! And while we sometimes gave them grief over the time, effort and money it cost to do all that decorating – they continued the tradition all the same.
As I thought about all those decorations, and all those years, I actually had to smile. While challenging at times, there were memories of tripping over wires, testing lights, setting timers and trying not to knock over decorations from the floor and tables as you walked through a room. My Dad telling my train-loving husband, each year, the “correct” way to setup the plastic train track and cars. Good memories that made me laugh and they warmed my heart! By finding a way to celebrate Christmas this year, I was indeed honoring my parents. A time of year they loved, with decorations that would bring back so many fond memories.
I announced to my husband that I was going to do it – I was going to put up decorations! He looked at me and lightly laughed and said “Um, OK!”
My husband had no idea what his project had done for me, just as my sister may not realize how her statement helped me through a hard time. I do – and I am very grateful! I may not be ready for all the hooplah of the season, and that is OK, but I found that I can celebrate in my own way and a way that would make my parents proud! A way that will keep them close in my heart, even though they are not here with me anymore.
This Thanksgiving, even amidst the sadness and the feelings of loss that are still so present, I am thankful for every blessing I have in my life – my husband, my sisters and brother, my nieces and nephews, my extended family members and my close friends. I am thankful for the time I had with my parents, who taught me much, loved me well and left me with good memories to hold onto. And I am thankful for my faith and the love of Christ – my savior, my protector and my comforter.
So if you are feeling a little blue this holiday season, or having trouble getting into the spirit, look deep into your heart and find your blessings. They are there, even in the deepest of hard times. And remember to be thankful – in all situations!