Saturday, December 31, 2016

new year's eve, 2016

It's the last day of 2016, y'all. Hard to believe we've made it another trip around the sun. A friend just asked me whether I was going out or staying in to celebrate, and I told him I was staying in - but not to celebrate. I just don't feel like it. It's not that I'm not glad on some level that this filled-with-tragedy year is coming to a close, because in many ways, that's true, but this morning I had a stark realization: 2016 is also the last calendar year when Clara was still here with her mom and dad. She was here for almost 25 days of 2016, which feels, in retrospect, like the blink of an eye, but SHE. WAS. HERE. Still full of joy and hope, still happy and silly and goofy and kind and smart and amazing. 2016 started off with her in it, and because it's ending without her, I just can't bring myself to toast to something new right now. I need one more day (at least) to remember a year when her parents carried everyday burdens like everyone else and not the profound sadness and heartache that they struggle to shoulder now.

No matter what happens this year (or any other year ahead), I will ALWAYS keep Clara's memory alive. I will ALWAYS treasure that precious girl. I will ALWAYS love and support my dear friends in whatever way I can. This year has taught me a lot, but what it really reminded me more than anything is that LOVE is the only thing worth investing yourself in, and if you see it in the actions of others, then you know the feelings are there to back it up. Just as faith requires deeds/evidence to demonstrate its authenticity, so, too, does love.

So tonight, I will watch the clock quietly wind down without fanfare or champagne. I will say goodbye to 2016, with both tears and thanksgiving, and I will turn the page to the next chapter and get on about the business of real love. To all my friends and loved ones: In good times and in bad, may you know this kind of love every day, all year long.

And Clara, sweet girl, you are missed and loved as much as ever - for always 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

On the eve of 11 months

It's Christmas Eve and I'm at home prepping food for tomorrow's dinner at my parents' house. The Christmas movies have been on a near-constant loop for the last two days. I've wrapped gifts, packaged treats, mailed cards, and visited with a few friends. Last night we went to a show at Center Stage (which was fantastic, by the way) and all the speakers in the apartment (and my car) have been pumping out holiday tunes out the wazoo. And in the midst of the ribbons and wrapping paper, the flour dust on my apron and the warm wishes, I feel broken.

Christmas is about hope, about peace and love, about the light that broke through the darkness of this weary world. And by God, after the year that has passed, filled with disappointments and stress, struggle and death and sorrow, my heart is indeed weary. I've found myself weeping on more than one occasion over the last several days, crying for the sadness of others...crying for my own.

Tomorrow marks 11 months since my little friend Clara’s passing. Christmas Day. I still cannot believe it. There are no presents to open this year, no tree, no decorations, no precious girl to love on. She is not of this earth any longer. And that, in the midst of a season of celebrating, feels like a swift kick in the gut. And my strong, incredibly brave friends are feeling the heel of that particular boot every day…all day long.

Grief stretches out like a long road, and even during the times when its presence grows thin for a few paces and joy breaks through, it is still there, waiting for you to round the next turn up ahead. It plays cruel jokes on you, throwing up the proverbial oases in the desert, only to leave you thirsty when you arrive to what you think will be some relief. But even in its seeming cruelty, it can be kind, too, offering up sweet memories, laughter, opportunities to have real connection and throw off the day-to-day muck that deadens our senses and separates us from others…and from ourselves.

And if you find others to join you on your journey, there is some comfort in that, too: knowing you aren’t alone. One of my greatest prayers for my dear friends over the last year is that they would know the love and care of others and feel bolstered by it. And though I know that hasn’t arrived to the level I would have loved to see, I have witnessed God’s love for them in the form of other people and their kindness, compassion, and presence.

Isn’t that really what matters most – on Christmas or any other day? To know you are loved is the greatest gift there is. And even as I sit here, with a lump in my throat, I know that there IS much to celebrate, even through the pain. And I choose to receive the sweetness, the light, the hope however it comes, with open hands and heart.

If you’re reading this today, I wish the same for you. However your year has been (and for many of us, it’s been a mixed bag, at a minimum) and whatever fears or uncertainties you may be facing even now, may hope fill your heart, and may the light break through whatever darkness surrounds you and bring your weary heart some joy, this Christmas and always.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas recollections

Every time I hear the song "Silent Night," it brings back such a visceral memory of Christmas, 1982. I was in 2nd grade and we had just finished up our school's Christmas concert. It was evening time and the air was crisp. My then 'boyfriend' had run up to me and, with bright eyes and a huge smile, given me a Christmas card, a pin reading 'Virginia is for Lovers,' and a copy of "The Wizard of Oz." In the card, he told me he loved me. I remembered going to bed that night with the card tucked under my pillow feeling like I had been told some delicious secret. 

And, to be honest, I guess I had. Someone pouring out his heart to you, whether at the age of 7, or as a grown man, is a pretty big deal. And it makes you remember that sometimes grand gestures really DO mean something. (Of course, said boyfriend broke up with me a year and a half later at the beginning of 4th grade because I cut all my hair off over the summer, and he just couldn't handle that. Oh well.) But here I am, taking a 5-minute break from an otherwise hectic work week, and as the familiar tune plays in my ears, I can still recall the feelings of magic and possibility of that Christmas. Maybe a little of 1982 will rub off on me this year. I sure could use a little magic right about now....