ANN BAILEY: Daughter’s faith reminds us what we know in our heartsOne of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that the things that bring you the most joy also bring you the most sorrow. Christmas is one of them.
One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that the things that bring you the most joy also bring you the most sorrow.
Christmas is one of them.
I first experienced the pain that can be part of Christmas 18 years ago. My brother, Richard, had died in March that year and that Christmas was the first one without him. I knew from reading books about grief and talking to people who had lost family members that it would be a sad Christmas, and it was.
Richard’s absence hurt so deeply it felt like physical pain and every Christmas song, happy or sad, rubbed salt into the wound. I knew that year that Christmas would never be the same without him.
It wasn’t. As the years passed, the pain lessened, but I still missed Richard and wished that he was with us to celebrate. I experienced the same emotions when my dad died and I had to adjust to another empty place at the Christmas dinner table.
This year, there will be one more empty place. My mom’s death in September has left my family of origin with four living members.
It’s been difficult these past three months, trying to adjust to life with nearly half of the family I grew up in no longer with us. The grief and helplessness I feel when I think about how much I miss them sometimes seems unbearable.
I know that it will be even harder today, Christmas Day. I also know that it is unavoidable. How can it not make our hearts ache to be devoid of the physical presence of the people we love? How can it not make us cry when we think about the things that we want to talk to them about, the experiences we want to share with them and the gifts that we wished we could have given them?
It is thinking about the last, the giving of gifts, that is one of the hardest this month. Besides being Christmas, this is my mom’s and dad’s birthday month. My dad was born Dec. 4, 1919, and my mom on, Dec. 13, 1923. Meanwhile, I was born Dec. 6, and my sister, Bonnie, shares my dad’s birthday.
Throughout much of my life, the first two weeks of December were a merry round of celebrations and gift buying. In November, I’d page through catalogs, looking for ideas for birthday presents. This year, as I was looking through the catalogs, I mentally noted several things that my mom would like.
The greatest gift
Then I remembered I wouldn’t be buying for her this year. Tears welled up in my eyes and when my children asked what was wrong I told I them that I was sad because I wouldn’t be buying birthday or Christmas gifts for Grandma this year.
Ellen, 8, looked at me concerned, and then said gently, “But Mom, Grandma will be spending Christmas in heaven this year with Grandpa Adrian and Uncle Richard and her parents.” Then she paused and said, “And Mom, she’ll be spending it with Jesus and he’s the one who started it all.”
My daughter’s profound faith is what has sustained me through my down days this Christmas season and what will brighten the dark moments I experience today. I know I still will fiercely miss my mom’s, dad’s and brother’s physical presence today. But the thought of them celebrating Jesus’ birthday with him in heaven and his promise that someday the rest of our family will be joining them, will bring me comfort.
On this Christmas Day, like every day of the year, I am thankful for the gift of birth of our Savior and for children like Ellen whose simple faith reminds us of what we know deep in our hearts, but forget in the midst of our earthly challenges.