Thursday, December 11, 2014

Good grief: Christmas when somebody's gone

This is the fourth Christmas that I'll make peanut-butter marshmallow squares and have a little cry on the first bite.

"Dad's favourite," I'll think, chewing the sweet, melting goodness.

I'll have little moments like these throughout the rest of Advent and into Christmastide. 

I'll remember the time Dad created the perfect Christmas tree by cutting two trees down, taking the branches from one and drilling holes in the sparse parts of the other one to fill it in.  It was beautiful.  Only my Dad would've done something like that.

I'll remember the ice rink he made in our back-yard, and learning to skate on it. The tobogganing and snow-man building. The massive snow forts built with the aid of the snow blower: Our "real" igloo with a roof.  

I'll remember the "Santa" writing that looked oddly familiar on Christmas morning.

I'll remember having to get to the church a half-hour early for Mass, and having to sit closer to him than I ever did normally because of the crowd.

I'll wish for that moment back so hard I think my head will explode.

I'll remember my oldest son's first Christmas - his only Christmas where he got hugs and kisses (and contraband cookies and ice cream) from Grandpa, and ache for my other two babies who will not know his touch, his laugh or his love.

It is a raw, cold, wintery ache.

It has taken me nearly four years to process that Christmas can still be Christmas without him. Though I miss him terribly, and even still, there is an undeniable hole in my family and wound on my heart, I know that Advent and Christmas do what they have always done in mirroring the joy we shall have when we, like our lost loved ones, meet God face to face.

As a faithful Catholic, my Dad believed he'd be meeting Jesus at the end of his life.   

As my family prepares and waits to meet our Lord spiritually at Christmas, I've come to the realization that my father's preparations are over. He's closer to the experience of the Christmas joy of our Saviour right now.

I take comfort in that. I hold that in my heart, believing that in His mercy, God has our lost loved ones in hand, waiting till the hour when our new Advent will end.

That seems really big.
It might be hard to believe. 
It doesn't lessen the pain of loss, that's true.

But for me, it's hope and a teeny bit of joy, which gives me the strength to keep on when the sadness strikes and the tears don't want to stop.

It doesn't devalue the memory of my Dad to go on with joy this Christmas without him in my life, or at my table - it honours him and all that he worked for in this earthly life.

"For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up on the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; so that we will be with the Lord forever."  1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

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