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.