ANN BAILEY: A time to reflect on absent loved onesAnn Bailey looks back on lost loved ones and the Christmas season.
The Christmas season is one of my favorite times of the year.
As a Christian, I look forward to celebrating the birth of our Savior. I also thoroughly enjoy sending and receiving Christmas cards from friends, baking and attending the holiday gatherings that are a part of the secular holiday celebration.
But for the past 20 years, amidst the joy of the season I have felt sharp twinges of sadness. During the Christmas season in 1992, my brother, Richard, was suffering from a serious illness and living in a nursing home. By the next Christmas, Richard had died.
I learned during those Decembers how sad a holiday that is supposed to be joyous can be during tough times. Songs such as “The Most Wonderful Time of Year” and “Holly, Jolly Christmas” made me cry because, for me, the season was anything but that.
The Christmas songs, decorating and holiday celebrations only exacerbated my pain.
During the 19 years since of Richard died, I have also experienced the death of my dad (1996) and mom (2011) and also my daughter Ellen’s battle with cancer (2008-2010). The Christmas seasons those years were difficult, and I found myself crying at least as much as rejoicing.
I am fortunate that no one close to me has died or been seriously ill in 2012.
For the most part, this Christmas season is a happy one, and I am enjoying the music and festivities. However, sometimes, a Christmas song or something someone says will trigger a memory of one of the people I’ve lost and tears well up in my eyes. At other times, I have an aching, helpless feeling because I miss them, but can’t do anything about it.
A light in darkness
I was reminded last week during the “Tree of Lights” event at Good Samaritan Society in Larimore, N.D., where I work, of just how many people have experienced the death of loved ones. During the Tree of Lights, the names of people who have died are read and Christmas tree bulbs donated in their memories are lit.
As I sat listening to the names on the long list, I thought about how each one of the people was loved by someone who missed them the way I miss my family members.
I also thought about the words of the pastor who gave a short message before the names were read. The message was about Jesus being the light of the world and how his birth brightened the darkness, not just for his age, but for all ages. She also talked about how someday we would be re-united in heaven with Jesus and our loved ones.
Though the message is one that I have heard before, it never ceases to comfort me and give me hope. It doesn’t make me miss Richard or my parents any less, but it does help knowing I will again see them and, for the first time, meet Jesus face to face.
While it may seem like that it will be a long time before that happens, it really is only the blink of an eye compared to eternity.
I also believe that, in the meantime, I can allow Jesus to work through me to help others who are hurting, not just during the holiday season, but all through the year.
The dark experience of my own losses and Ellen’s bout with cancer has given me understanding for what others are going through. Because of that understanding, I can work to be a Christ-like light for people who are experiencing sadness and add some brightness to their world.
Reach Bailey at email@example.com or (218) 779-8093.