Our “Different Kind of Christmas” Wish
Within days of Mark’s death, I started dreading the holidays. How on earth would I find any desire to celebrate anything, ever again, without the boy who first made me a mommy? Without seeing him loping through my kitchen stealing donut holes, and hugging me with his rough beard scratching my face? Without his gentle, “Oh, Mama, relax” All the traditions, laughter, memories we have shared are now finite. There will be no more on this earth with him. This creates a physical pain that should stop my heart, but somehow doesn’t. There are days when my bed calls me to escape into sleep where I can pretend none of this ever happened. Sometimes I answer that call and hope to wake up and find out this was a mistake, it wasn’t really him in the car.
I’m not going to lie. Some days we are just going through the motions, like shadows of the family we used to be. We crawl in bed together and weep without speaking. We forget things and snap at each other. We lose ourselves in reading, and projects and games…anything to keep us from thinking about the tragedy that has hit us like a meteorite and has left a huge hole in our hearts.
But some days we do actually laugh, connect and sometimes even dance. And as we have somehow breathed through the summer, start of School (what would have been Mark’s senior year), Daniel and Maria’s birthdays, we have learned a new rhythm. It is a rhythm of dependence on God for our very breath. And in these moments, we look at each other with sad, but hopeful, bloodshot eyes and know we will be okay. God is breathing into us a New Song. It is in a minor key, for now, but it is a new beautiful song nonetheless.
So, like it or not the holidays are here. And oddly, I have found myself enjoying preparing for Christmas. I had a twinge of guilt about that. Not because Mark would mind…oh no…he would demand I celebrate. But more because a newly grieving Mother is supposed to suffer through Christmas, right? Isn’t that what we hear? “The holidays are so hard. You just have to get through them.” It is very normal to hear that the tree doesn’t get put up for years or it is just too painful to decorate. I get it, I really do. When I pulled out the stocking I made for Markie as a baby, it wrecked me. I dread the moment when I call the kids to sit on the steps for our traditional Christmas morning picture. No words can describe the panic and pit in my stomach I feel when I think about that. And, as I continue to share where I am, please know that I am only speaking for myself in this moment and may very well crawl in a hole on Christmas day. And I don’t judge anyone who does. This is an unbearable pain and you just have to do what you have to do sometimes to make it to the next minute.
But here is the deal…Christmas is not about Mark. It is no more about Mark than it is about Santa. It is about Jesus, a God-person. It is His birthday, and I would no more not acknowledge his birthday than I would not acknowledge Will or Daniel or Maria’s birthdays. And this year, the meaning is even deeper and more special because I am so aware that because of God’s love for me He sent his Son to die for me. Sure, He knew how it would all end, but He still had to watch what He most loved die a painful death, and then overcome the power of the grave! Of course, He is God, but does that lessen the pain? Or maybe because He is the perfect Father, it actually increases the pain? If Grief is the cost of Love, wouldn’t the Ultimate Love Grieve the Hardest? The ultimate sacrifice made because of love…wow. Because of this, I can be in relationship with God and one day be reunited with my Mark for all eternity as we worship God together.
So this Christmas, I refuse to celebrate Fake Christmas. Putting wreaths on my windows makes me want to cuss. Not an act of worship. I’m not doing it. (Think about it, would you want someone cussing while making your birthday cake?) I might not feel like going to parties, or baking cookies and that is okay. But I am going to do things that say, “I love you, Jesus.” I am going to connect with my son, Mark, in heaven because Christ lives in me and Christ lives in Mark. I am going to treasure memories, and offer my tears to God as a liquid gift this Christmas. I am going to accept His Gift of Jesus as I breathe in and out. Yes, Christmas will be hard. But I refuse to “just get through it.” Life is too short for that. I believe that God has special gifts for those of us who have an empty seat or seats at our table this year. Let’s invite Jesus to fill that empty space and watch for what He has for us…whether through tears or laughter. So…this year, I might not wish you a Merry Christmas, but I can wholeheartedly wish you a Hope-Full Christmas.
God is Super Good.