Sunday, December 13, 2009

Skipping Christmas


Four years ago, when I observed my best friend "skipping Christmas," it saddened me. That's because I knew that Pam was still mourning the loss of her beloved father, who had passed away that previous March.

But I know now that there is no such thing as "still mourning." Over time the mourning may lessen, subside, but it never stops.

And four years ago, I couldn't have ever imagined how difficult it was for anyone who has lost a loved one to experience that year of "firsts," such as the first birthday. Mom's was last Sunday. We have a family tradition that the birthday person gets to select their favorite meal and my sister prepares it at a joyous family celebration. Mom always chose tostadas. And so, last Sunday we invited her best friend to join our family tradition over a tostada dinner, and we spent the evening exchanging funny stories and memories. What could have been a difficult time ended up warming our hearts. It felt good. Right.

But no matter how I try to spin it, Christmas this year isn't good or right. Every Christmas carol, every twinkling light, reminds me that last year at this time our family was healthy, whole and happy. I now understand Pam's decision four years ago when she chose to skip Christmas. No cards. No gifts. No decorations or parties or carols.

"Your mother wouldn't want that!" my friend, Patt, chided me. And she's absolutely right. Mom would be the first to tell us to whip out her favorite Christmas album by Andy Williams and spin it on the turntable.

But the brain can't force the heart. And my heart just isn't in it.

Friends who have experienced this type of loss promise that with each passing "first" it gets easier, and one day joy will return to my heart. I believe them. Just last night Pam called to tell me how pretty her Christmas tree looks.

And while my family may never again feel whole, in time I'll learn to be happy, and future Christmases will be good and right.
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