“This is going to be the first time we go through the holidays without mom.”
How many times have I heard these words spoken by others?
How am I just now understanding how full of meaning this statement really is?
Nearly 60 years old, this will be my first Christmas as an orphan. My sister and I lost my father over 10 years ago, my mother just last summer.
It will be up to us to create memories for the younger generation, and I have faith that we are up to the task.
It isn’t that my parents made a big fuss over the holiday season, quite the contrary. My parents knew how to keep the holidays truly as “Holy Days” and they were free from stress and full of love.
As teens, my sisters and I would often be invited to our boyfriend’s homes for Thanksgiving dinner, and we wanted to accept. When I first nervously posed the query to my mother, her answer came quickly and without a trace of resentment.
“Of course. We’ll have our family Thanksgiving on Saturday then.”
And just like that, a new tradition began. And honestly, who doesn’t want two turkey dinners instead of one? Our table was always full and served on my mother’s cheerful Old Country Roses china which was washed by hand after dinner and a walk. These were halcyon days indeed. My mother knew it was futile to insist on having her own way for the sake of tradition. In relinquishing this right, she drew us all in toward the warmth of her honest affection.
It was always a pleasure to spend time in her company.
My father was a man with a remarkable capacity for joy. He embraced fun at every opportunity and his heart was full of love for his family. “We are damn lucky!” my father would say, and no one could argue.
My parents lived on a tree farm (think lumber, not Christmas) and provided us with a fresh-cut tree every year. The irony was that it pained him to cut down any young evergreen. Instead of searching for the perfect tree, he would instead seek out the poorer and punier-looking specimens that might hinder the growth of the forest. Why cut down a tree with actual potential? His love for the outdoors was unmatched.
“You don’t have to take those ugly trees dad gives you, you realize?”
This question would come good-naturedly from my sister. But his bizarre offerings delighted our family and the girls, my husband and I would gleefully decorate our Charlie Brown Christmas tree each year.
I can’t recall what even one of the trees looked like, but I do remember the love.
My sister and I wish to keep the holidays “holy” this year and love is indispensable. We rise to the challenge not with wisdom and words but with hearts full of the miracle that is Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection.
If we focus on this miracle, I believe we won’t lower ourselves to argue pointlessly about whether greetings such as “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” are more acceptable.
We will instead look around for opportunities to share our parents’ legacy and honor our Savior. Our offerings may be simple and crude—homemade gifts such as soaps, jams, teas, and firewood. But if the love is there, what matter?
I trust we will be able to show our children and grandchildren that their grandparents live on through us all.
They are missed surely, but they did not leave us doubting their devotion to God and their family. We can still feel their presence daily.
Of course, there will be moments of sadness and loss, but this will not be our focus. These holidays will be spent in gratitude, not in mourning. We have been given an indescribable gift. Let’s cherish it, and also each other.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good life.