On any given day, I love being an early morning riser. I used to love it as a child, when I would follow my dad around the house as he went through his morning routine—I’d even tuck a handkerchief and old men’s wallet and little black comb into MY pants pocket too because I wanted to be just like him. I loved not being tired at 6:30AM jazz band and swing choir rehearsals in high school. And I have always loved the freshness and encouragement of super early morning walks—it’s such a perfect time to be outdoors, take deep breaths, and think, reflect, pray, and enjoy. (My non-early-morning-riser friends undoubtedly disagree with that statement. I assume you feel in the morning the way I feel in the late evening—blurry, slightly miserable, like all you want to do is lie down and not think or move.)
Yes, I am a morning person and Christmas morning? Well. This is probably my favorite early morning day of the year. I get to turn the twinkle lights on and smile at the overflowing stockings and quietly listen to Handel’s Messiah while I wait for the pitter-pat of tiny feet. It’s great. Except that something is missing this year, just like last year.
I miss my mom.
She was also an early morning person and we used to talk pretty much every morning. Especially Christmas! Even at 4:30AM my time today (when I was wide awake and drinking in the pre-dawn Christmas deliciousness), I would have absolutely called her because I would have known she would be awake too—-drinking her coffee, smoking her cigarettes, listening to the talking heads on television, while reading the newspaper, doing a crossword puzzle, keeping her zillion FaceBook games going, and probably listening to talk radio too. (Yes, all at the same time. My mom liked to do a lot of things all at once. Including talking to me.)
It’s good to miss her. I’m glad that I miss her. It means that we were true friends and that we loved one another. To love is to risk and to love is to grieve. And one year after her passing, I’m definitely still grieving. Just like a lot of people.
What is it about Christmas that brings about so much loss? Is it just in my head? Because it sure doesn’t feel like it. I have so many friends and acquaintances who share similar stories of loss that all happened right around the holidays. Let me tell you about just three that I learned about all in ONE day (last Monday):
- My dental hygienist totally related to my sharing how glad I was that my mother’s passing was December 18th rather than December 17th because my oldest daughter’s birthday is the 17th and even though I knew the dates would be close, I was really hoping they wouldn’t be a complete overlap. She really “got it” because her oldest child’s birthday is December 12th and her father passed on December 13th. Weird! And sad.
- After waiting quite a while in the long line of fellow procrastinators at our little local post office, I was surprised when the manager (Mr. Dean) waved me out of my place in the queue and had me wait a little longer so because he insisted on my being at his station. I had no idea why, but I really enjoy and care about all of the workers in our post office (we’ve spent a lot of time together over the years), so I just stood and waited quietly while he finished serving the people ahead of me. When it was finally my turn, even though there were still a hundred people all around us in line, he started to cry as he told me that his beloved dog (whom I knew was JJ because we talked a LOT about our dogs and because he always particularly loved it when Lilikoi accompanied me to the post office) had died in the night. Mr. Dean is a single man and JJ was his dearest canine friend! I cried with him (and the girls and I came back later with cards and flowers)—my heart broke for him at his loss.
- When I was on the phone with my 90 year-old neighbor, coordinating the details of our taking her to the airport and watching her home when she was traveling for the holidays, she told me that six people she loved had died in the past 36 days. Six people in 36 days! It was unimaginable. I had never heard anything like that except in movies or war or some massive act of terrorism or murder. Certainly not in the daily-ness of life in our quiet neighborhood with my sweet little widow who lives next door. But there it was. True. All at the holidays. All in the span of just over one month. I heard about each person and how they had impacted her life and how devastated she was by the funeral after funeral, loss after loss.
And I could give lots of other examples, of course, as I’m sure you could too. Husbands die. Fathers die. Children die. It’s terrible and worthy of grief. And it makes me long all the more for the redemption of Heaven and the defeat of death forever by the coming of the Lord in glory because this life really is not the way it’s supposed to be.
The older I get, the more I rejoice in the hope of the glory of God—that One Good Day, there really will be no more tears. I cannot wait for this day! And I am so grateful for the Incarnation of Emmanuel—God with us!—Who makes it all possible.
As you go throughout your Christmas day today, I truly hope that your acts of service and your celebrations of fun are all deeply joyful and beautifully love-filled. And that if you are grieving, I pray for you comfort. True comfort. A balm for your soul from the Only One big enough and strong enough (and compassionate enough!) to make everything right one day.
With love from your friend,
I was able to relate to Mr. Dean’s grief (about losing his beloved dog at Christmas) in a particular way because we lost our first Golden Retriever just before Christmas in 2006. As I processed through the shock of her death (she was young and she died from an accident), I wasn’t sleeping well and one night I forced myself to learn how to use YouTube (a big technological jump for me because I’m not that savvy at online stuff and YouTube was a little “cutting edge” way back then) just so I could share some of her videos. One video? “The World’s Most Patient Dog” has had over half a million hits. It still cracks me up every time I watch it. 34 seconds of hilarity if you’re a dog person—especially if you’re a Golden Retriever dog person—and if you want to see a super cute video of when Sophie was a wobbly little toddler:
The words “God is not dead nor doth He sleep” keep reverberating in my heart this morning, so I thought I’d grab the whole Henry Longfellow poem for you too:
- I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play;
In music sweet their tones repeat,
“There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”
- I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’ unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
- Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor does He sleep,
For Christ is here; His Spirit near
Brings peace on earth, good will to men.”
- When men repent and turn from sin
The Prince of Peace then enters in,
And grace imparts within their hearts
His peace on earth, good will to men.
- O souls amid earth’s busy strife,
The Word of God is light and life;
Oh, hear His voice, make Him your choice,
Hail peace on earth, good will to men.
- Then happy, singing on your way,
Your world will change from night to day;
Your heart will feel the message real,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.