Last year we didn’t put up any Christmas decorations. The general mood of the season was too much for me. The music too cheery. The lights too bright. The shopping too busy. And though I participated in a few Christmas activities, the spirit never hit me. Only a heightened sense of sadness. How could my family ever be normal again? The feeling of holiday joy seemed to die along with my son.
The season wasn’t a complete loss. The pastor of our church had just written an Advent book had a scripture verse and devotional each day through Christmas day. Reading it every day helped to connect me to the real reason for the season, though I still was extremely relieved when it was all over.
To be honest, I assumed what I experienced last year would be how I felt for the rest of my life. But few months after Christmas my daughter shared how sad it made her that we didn’t decorate the house for Christmas. I completely understood that it was a preemptive message.
Fortunately,that conversation happened early enough in the year that I didn’t have to think about it. But the closer it got to December, the more I started to worry about things like Christmas stockings. Our original stockings were thin red felt with our names written in a glitter pen. When I bought them twenty something years ago, I wasn’t thinking long-term. The boys were toddlers, and I figured we’d get nicer ones at some point down the line. When my daughter was born, I bought her one that looked similar to the ones we already had. Family joked for years that hers was bigger than everyone else’s. I intended to buy new velvet stockings with our name embroidered on them, but never got around to it. Now I could never buy new stockings.
Then I worried about Christmas morning. Last year, we decided to go on a cruise at the last-minute so that we wouldn’t have to face Christmas at home without him. But there were no plans for a cruise this year. How would we get through the day?
I began to look at HomeAway and other vacation rental sites to find somewhere to go close to home. The challenge was finding a location that had activities on Christmas day. Hanging out in a strange place with nothing to do wasn’t going to make the day any easier than sitting at home.
I even tried to find something near Disney World. The kids would be able to hang out at the parks or Downtown Disney if they wanted to. But I couldn’t find anything that worked for us.
We seemed destine to spend Christmas at home. There was no way I getting out of decorating. The thought of decorating was easier to accept once I decided to tune down what my younger son coined “the Christmas bomb”. We’d have a simple tree and that would be it.
But as fate would have it, that was not to be. A problem with the venue moved my husband’s company holiday party to our house. The plan quickly went from simple to full Christmas tilt.
I thought I could handle it all until we started to put up the first tree. The smell of eggnog and festive music in the background was too reminiscent of previous years. I could almost see Matt sitting on the sofa ribbing his brother as they drank bourbon spiked eggnog. Not a surprise that I found myself in tears. The next few days were really hard.
But even with the sadness I’ve felt the last few days, a thought keeps coming to mind. Matt loved Christmas. Even as an adult, he would be eager to get the decorations up.He never complained about helping. It almost felt as if he was encouraging me to not loss the joy of the season.
At a recent holiday event, the second verse “O, Come, All Ye Faithful” rang louder than ever before:
Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation;
Sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above!
Glory to God,
Glory in the highest;
Matt is a citizen of heaven. The thought of him celebrating Christmas with the Lord made me smile. And in that moment singing with 4,ooo other women, I felt the Christmas spirit.
It’s only the ninth of December. I still have a lot to get through, not the least of which is his birthday. But I’m feeling hopeful that joy of the season won’t pass me by.