This year the holidays weren't the same for us as the years passed.
In fact, there have been many friends and acquaintances going thru the loss of a loved one this holiday season....
I've always loved this time of year- so very much. I start Christmas shopping around August.
I love ribbon, paper, lights, Christmas music, movies, baking, planning, the excitement, the kids, the birth of our Savior....
Making plans for birthday celebrations with Landon & our annual Christmas party/my bday bash.
Looking forward to each Thanksgiving get together, making goodies in the kitchen, black Friday shopping event, watching Christmas movies every single day, loads of shopping trips - mainly just to be in the hustle bustle of it all & seeing the decorations.
I feel like I'm 5 years old again.
It's just so much fun.
I don't say it stresses me out.
I love it.
I wrap every single tiny gift & make pretty bows.
I've got a calendar full of things to do,
and I LOVE IT, allllll of it!
But this year, God made other plans.
This year I get the news I've always dreaded. My paw paw was taken to the hospital. Now, he's been before for other things, but this time my heart sank, my gut feeling was terrible, emotions ran wild. I dropped everything during shoots and left. It was Veteran's day & I thought I was ahead of schedule. Finishing up my last day of Christmas minis,pretty excited because that would put me a little ahead so that I would be able to have ample time to spend with my family during the holidays this year.
Little did I know that the next few weeks would be the worst days of my life.
As a family, we stood by paw paw, he fought a long hard fight.
One that I never anticipated him having to battle.
We had to make decisions that I never thought we'd have to make.
The days clicked by so quickly.
One day we're hearing things are improving then shortly after we're doing a 180.
We hit the ceiling- then hit the floor.
Roller coaster of emotions.
Friends and family members came to visit. They'd bring snacks & tell stories about their adventures with paw paw. We'd laugh and cry. He had so many stories. But these stories,well- I'd not heard lots of these. They were great. It opened my eyes to see even more beautiful things. My paw paw made everybody smile. He lit up the room. If you ever spent any time with him, you heard some great stories. I could see, in his friends, that he made an impact on so many. He was loved very much & he certainly loved life. It made it easier to sit those long hours in that will waiting room. But little did we know that as we prepared ourselves for our Thanksgiving day at the hospital, we'd be planning his arrangements by nightfall.
Thanksgiving day will never be the same.
I feel like it was yesterday.
Holding onto him as he left his heavenly body. I saw more sadness in a couple hours than all my years put together with my family. There was a silence. Just an uneasy feeling of grief, then quiet soon after.
The next night as I stood in line at his viewing, I felt comfort again as I listened to all the stories from friends coming thru. Goodness gracious at the stories, he was a hoot, that's for sure. But still moving thru the hours/days in a fog. It hasn't sank in. Even after the burial. It was tough, but not real yet.
I kept myself busy after all this. I've worked hours and hours on end. Making up for so many days lost. Not to mention all the shopping I didn't do, decorating, cooking, cleaning, etc.
Will i catch up?
Finally decided I'd stop on Christmas eve eve around noon ....
I had so much to do that evening.
Nothing hit me until waking up Christmas eve.
I didn't get that call asking where I was shopping for that one last minute gift.
They always were.
Usually he would be sitting on bench inside Belk or parked front parking place so he could yell at me as I ran in to find granny. He'd be like a kid wanting to know just what time we'd be there that night. (Santa always came at midnight, so we'd be there shortly after). I went on with my day as usual but that hole was growing. As midnight grew closer, my heart sank more. We did Santa with Landon & opened our gifts-but never got that call "Where are y'all? On your way yet?" As we made our way to Christmas with granny, every song on the radio brought tears, fighting them back was easier until hitting the driveway....
knowing he wouldn't be standing there in the doorway, sporting whatever goofy Christmas attire we'd supplied him with throughout the years, would prove impossible to hold back any tear. It was real.
He's not called me and he's not standing there.
We wouldn't get to joke about who all we needed to call and wake up because Santa just ran.
We wouldn't get to open some crazy gift he'd come up with for us, or give him anything that would make him chuckle and grin so big,
I wouldn't get to sneak him bacon or ham to small on while the ladies were cooking, none of it.
His chair would be empty, the void would be huge.
Nothing was said. We went on with our Christmas.
Customary routines are ended or not repeated in same way.
Easy going laughter, once flowing so naturally, may become awkward or even altogether missing.
Gift giving, once so filled with fun, may seem somehow empty and sad.
Familiar songs, once so comforting, may catch in your throat or bring tears to your eyes.
We make it thru and go on home to sleep a few hours before waking and continuing our Christmas with others.
I wake up in tears,confused at first, but immediately realize I'd typically be awakened by my phone ringing. Paw paw giggling and asking if we were awake yet (knowing he was the alarm) & singing me Happy Birthday.
I miss that voice something terrible.
The rest of my day was a bit harder. The void stayed with me.
Sometimes the memories intrude on celebrations, making this season hard to handle.
I never fully grasped how difficult that would be, until now. The empty chair sticks out more. The room full of people feels quieter. Or louder. The gifts go unopened. Or unwrapped. Or un- bought. It's hard to remember something to be thankful for. Smiles look a little shaky. And tears are the uninvited guest that won't leave.
Grieving during the holidays is difficult. Especially the first holiday cycle after the passing of said loved one. Whatever your age, whatever the cause of death, holidays loved in the absence of a loved one can be a very difficult time. But while sadness can try it's best to turn those beautiful gifts into bitter reminders of what's missing, the sadness can't compete when we remember that today is full. Full of pain, yes- sometimes....but also full of blessings and joy & things both big and small that God has given us to remind us of His love & faithfulness.
It may have taken me a few days to collect myself & say how very thankful I am for family and friends that have showered me with Love on my birthday. And gave me an amazing Christmas.
Even though the holidays are not the same & there is a hole in my heart, I am forever grateful for all the wonderful memories he gave me to hang onto.
I heard over and over again during all of this that pain is a sign you have been blessed to draw very close to another.
You have loved and you have been loved. The hurt you feel is an indication of your wonderful humanness, your sensitivity, your openness. It is a proof that another has touched you deeply, even as you have touched them. While you may wish you did not hurt as much as you do, you dare not forget that your pain is none other than the result of your joy.
°• The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18•°
If the holidays are making you sad this year – perhaps the same as every year or maybe more than you ever imagined possible – I pray that you can close your eyes and feel it for a moment. It’s okay to do that. Really. But then open them to the good that is still around you.