Winter time is my least favorite time of year. Christmas is my second least favorite time of year. Even though I’m excited for my kids, I enjoy the lights, and sometimes I enjoy the gatherings…. there just seems to be an empty pothole in my heart. Every. Single. Year. I keep thinking it will cease, but every year I dread the holidays because I know it will come. I don’t always know when, but I know it will be there eventually.
But, even as busy as I am with two children and working outside the home, this Christmas season already seems annoying. My heart is just a little bit more empty than usual.
My world completely changed in 2006, and that included all the Christmas cheer.
I joke and say I’m the Grinch. Ironically, my toddler loves the Grinch. The reason I say I’m the Grinch is because I’d actually prefer not to leave my house during the holiday season. But since I work, have children, have a life, I must leave that pesky tall cave and enter the real world— with so much Christmas Cheer and thus, the pothole of grief often finds me like it has so many times in the past. You see, the cave has less potholes where there is no Christmas Cheer to be found. ( this is my winky face).
I recently heard a friend discussing that their friend’s mom passed and how devastated that friend was and still was, even *gasp* months later.
It was said
“it’s time to move on. You gotta to just move on. I don’t know how to tell her this, but she’s got to realize that it happened and you get over it.”
You see, this would have made me mad about 10 years ago- but I offer grace to my friend. This person has not lost their mom. This person, is living in a world they know nothing about yet. They live in a world with their Mom who is still very much active in her life. She has no clue what life is without a Mom. Even in the late 30’s, you need your mom as if you were 5 again needing someone to comb your hair. So a world without a Mom for the rest of YOUR life, is actually impossible to grasp until you’ve walked and lived down this dark path.
How do you explain the holidays without your Mom? This is the only way I know how. So if you care to listen, here goes…..
See my tree is empty this year. Not because I’m lazy and won’t decorate it. Mostly because my almost two year old just really likes to wind and unwind the lights, but because decorating the tree is ONE of the hardest parts of Christmas for me without my Mom. Every ornament I pull out reminds me of her. I have stories to go with each and every one of those. The year I tried to put just the kids ornament up, I cried that she had missed my daughter’s birth and birthdays and dance recitals. Last year I cried because she wasn’t there for her new grandson and the cycle renewed itself— even with non-sentimental ornaments from “the” Walmart I cry every year over her.
Then there are the gatherings. All the gatherings that she use to be at. With all the people she loved and cared about. It’s hard. Nobody has lost their Mom or Dad yet ( besides my Brother), and I’m 13 years in. I’m the lone survivor at all the gatherings.
Then there is the fact that right after Christmas of ’05, my Mom was told that the cancer had returned in her back. She had been suffering from what she thought was a slip disk. I was sitting at the desk in the kitchen. The phone rang. She said “yes, I understand. Thank you for getting the results back so quickly Dr. Heth. I will come tomorrow to start radiation again.” The next day I was sitting in the radiation lab helping her undress to go lay under radiation rays that I knew would ultimately never actually kill the cancer. It was 2006, she had been fighting since 1999. I had on a brown fuzzy sweater. I held her hand. Afterwards, we went to a bridal boutique in Roanoke and shopped for my wedding gown that she never got to see me wear.
Then there is the nativity scene. Her last Christmas she waited for me to place the baby Jesus in the manger. I had exams that ran right up until the day before Christmas Eve. When I got home, baby Jesus was laying on dresser. I dropped my luggage in my room and there he lay. She had waited several weeks for me to do my job, that had been my job every year since I could remember. Last year and the first year since she had passed, I got that same manger out. It was time for my daughter to have that job, so thus the tradition lives on. This year, my eyes were wet. It just trickles down my face, because it’s another part of the really pesky pothole that is trying to heal.
the lights are pretty. Even though there are lots of gatherings to share laughter with people I love, where I laugh. Even though I have two children, a marriage, my Dad, my Brother, a lovely Yaya in my children’s lives and a beautiful home that I call ours. Even though I laugh hysterically at all the Christmas parades. Even though I plan the Christmas gathering for my Scott family. Even though I host Thanksgiving and Christmas for my extended family. Even though I love seeing my kids light up on Christmas morning…. the list could go on..
Even though with all of that. I still miss her and everything about Christmas only reminds me again how much I miss her. Christmas reopens the pothole of grief for me…..
and trust me, you don’t just move on. You don’t just say well, my Mom is gone, time to move on. You just learn to live without them, but the pothole in the heart- the hole that was created when they left— you think it’s completely gone and then Christmas at least, (at least for me) Christmas reopens all the grief. All the sad. All the missing. All the yearning for one more time to do all the “things” with her.
Grief is like a pothole in the road. All of a sudden it’s just there. You don’t see it coming. You don’t know how the big the hole is, but it’s there.
I’ve just learned through the years you just fill the pothole up the best you can with all the good around you. You smile at people. You help them. You hug your kids. You buy the expensive present for the family member that won’t buy it for themselves. You cook a good meal for your family. You go to the Christmas play and you laugh at the awkward Mary and Joseph. You go to Dirty Santa parties. You bake a birthday cake for Jesus with your kids. You go out with your friends and you laugh and laugh. You go to the Christmas caroling every year and you fill so lost and empty, but you sing to people who need Christmas cheer more than you do. You buy the outrageous pj’s for the kids and you move the damn elf to see your kids light up.
You see, you can fill it back up ( the pothole)- but it takes work. It takes courage. It takes strength, but mostly it takes knowing that grief is never going to leave. As for the friend, I offer grace, because one day, one day her Mom will pass and I will be there. I will hug her and hold her hand, because once upon a time I didn’t really understand grief either. Grief it is just part of who you are now; it’s just always knowing that pothole is there and that every—— ( well it is usually Christmas for me) you have to work that much harder not to sink into the pothole yourself.
Christmas Season now and Christmas Season then.