The excerpt below is from a post by Liza Smith* in Austin, Texas. She is one of the members in my FB group that is a dedicated space for moms of children who committed suicide. She also lost her child about a year ago, and every word of it echoes how I feel during this 2020 holiday season:
“….Since last Christmas, I vowed to try harder. I picked up some new (to me) outdoor decorations at yard sales and clearance sales. Inside our home is still vacant of holiday spirit. This year actually feels harder than the first year. The exterior shows a normal family, and the interior shows our fragile hearts…..”
At the end of 2019, after the tragic blow of losing my son, with the exception of a wreath on the door, our house remained unmarked of holiday spirit. This year, however, along with my sole surviving child, this sweet mom’s post inspired me to make the dreaded trip up to the attic. Trying not to stare too hard at Christmas’s past, I located and pulled out our Christmas village.
Backtracking, for about five Christmases in a row, we made a pilgrimage to the Ronald McDonald house to deliver holiday pies and desserts. Nearly 28 years ago, my then husband and I lodged at the house when my son was born with a heart defect and underwent open heart surgery at the nearby hospital. The staff had a beautiful Christmas village display, and that was the model we used in our home during the holidays.
Although our Christmas village was nowhere near as intricate as Ronald McDonald’s setup, before the tragedy, it took me days to decorate our home for Christmas. In fact, we didn’t just have one tree, we had two lavish artificial trees, one white and one green!
Now, please read another excerpt from the same FB post by Liza. Again, everything she writes mirrors my feelings.
“….So I picked out the biggest most lavish artificial tree at the store. It was ridiculous; but I imagined the laughter of future Christmas around that tree and had to have it. We only put it up twice. Now it mocks me with its size, and cheerful, colorful lighting.
I tried dragging it out this year and only got the base layer done before melting down. My husband tried to comfort me and said “I thought this was the tree you wanted, it should make you happy” and he was half right. It was the tree I wanted, but only because it matched the life I wanted. Without that life, the tree lost its joy. We packed it back up and offered it to my sister who is starting an exciting new chapter in her life. Her and her partner just moved in together. It’s new and fresh and although she misses her nephew, she has joy again in her life. Her life matches the tree….”
Liza also explained in her FB post that she ended up getting a “pencil” style tree this year—and so did I. I couldn’t bare revisiting the old decorations–my young children’s handmade ornaments, ceramic baby shoes imprinted with birth dates, and so on. I ended up buying plain old NEW globe ornaments. The ornaments resemble this new normal: paired down, slim and simple.
My roomie said my son is happy that I decorated and resurrected the Christmas village. I stopped reading minds, especially ones that no longer emit brainwaves. But I can say, the glow of the village’s white lights are warm and invite me to “participate in life’s calendar of events.” This was another idea from Liza’s FB post. Sweet mom wrote, “I’m no where near ready to celebrate again, but participation I can handle.”
Liza’s FB post also inspired me to dedicate my blog post in honor of my fellow bloggers and all those who are not looking forward to Christmas this week. Perhaps this is your first Christmas without a particular loved one, or maybe your tenth or fiftieth year without that someone special. Or, maybe you are far from home in the military. Or, perhaps, you are at home without any family at all. Certainly, during these challenging pandemic times, some of you may be going through things like job loses. financial upsets, health issues and isolation.
The point is, I invite each of you to participate in life’s holiday calendar of events, whether it is connecting on zoom with a friend or family member or listening to a holiday concert on the internet. What about baking butter cookies? Or driving around the neighborhood to enjoy the array of holiday lights?
Sometimes you have to force yourself to have faith and plan activities that will help you achieve it. On the up side, this is the time of year, even during a pandemic, where holiday lights are the fireflies of winter’s backyard. Grab an imaginary jar and catch the glow.
*Thank you, Liza for your permission to use your encouraging words. I hope they help others as much as they helped me.