Christmas is easily the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas trees are rooted with presents, stockings are stuffed, holiday music fills the air, almost every home twinkles with Christmas lights, and family and friends get together to celebrate the season. There is an unspoken expectation for people to be jolly and full of holiday spirit around this time. However, for some people, the holidays can seem more like something to survive rather than enjoy.
The loss of a loved one seems to sting a little harder during the Christmas season. As the family gathers around the dinner table you can't help but steer your eyes toward the empty seat that your dear loved one used to fill. As you decorate the Christmas tree tears can't help but fill your eyes as you hang the ornament of an angel with your loved ones' name on it. Your Christmas list tends to go from materialistic items to just wanting one more day with your loved one. Suddenly driving around to look at Christmas lights is no longer fun. Every little potential joy is trumped by the fact that your loved one isn't there to experience it with you. There are forced smiles and laughs at the annual Christmas parties because deep down everyone knows the life of the party has now passed on.
After you lose some of the most important people in your life, there's not really any such thing as holidays anymore. They tend to just become regular ole' days.
I remember putting out food for the reindeer, getting the milk and cookies for Santa ready, and begging my mama one last time to let me open just one present, and then being tucked in for the night. I always had to count sheep on Christmas Eve because of course I was told Santa wouldn't come until I was fast asleep. I was up before the sunrise on Christmas morning and digging into presents as my mama raced to get the camera. For the whole day, you'd be hard fit to find me without a smile plastered on my face.
All that excitement changes once the people you love pass away. Rather than jumping out of bed I lay for hours after I awake and scroll through the many pictures other families post. I know walking into the living room to not find my grandpa drinking his morning coffee and reading the newspaper is going to secretly break my heart just like it does every other day. I know my mama won't be there to photograph me opening my presents. I know I won't get the joy I used to get as I watched them open the homemade presents I worked so hard on.
No matter how long it has been, no matter the cause of death, no matter the family member, spending the holidays without them never gets any easier. The holidays are meant to be spent with family, so not having them there is going to always hurt more during this time.
As I've gotten older I've tried to think about things from a different perspective. Instead of grieving over the fact that many people will fail to gather around the table for Christmas dinner, I think about how magical Christmas in Heaven must be. There's no better gift than the gift of knowing your loved one is with Jesus. To know that our loved ones are walking down the snow-covered streets of gold admiring the mansions covered in white should bring you more joy than any gift ever could.
So as you wrap up the holidays and begin to move into another year try not to spend the last few days grieving. You might miss making snow angels or singing Christmas carols with your loved one, but I can promise you they will be singing them with many more angels all around Gods throne. As you close your eyes on Christmas night, look up to the sky and whisper to heaven, "Merry Christmas."