The rush of Christmas is over and for some of us we have taken some time off and are enjoying the relaxation and quietness that follows. I hope all of you had a very wonderful Christmas filled with love and laughter, family and friends.
This Christmas was not an easy one for me, I did not wear my emotions on my sleeve, but a big part of me really felt what was missing. As the day approached, I felt tightness in my heart, a sadness that seemed to come from the core of my very being. As I went about the traditions and rituals there was an emptiness that I could not explain, and which I knew others would not understand.
The gifts were wrapped and everything was ready. My family and I went to Christmas Eve Mass and of course our pastor was at his best. During the homily he shared a story that left me in tears, tears I could not control or stop. To add to this, a child sat in front of us who reminded me of my daughter. She wore pigtails, was lively and had a ready smile for all of us. She would turn around and smile and play with my husband from time to time. At the end of the Mass, she decided it was my turn to play; she grabbed both my hands, smiled and squeezed them tight. My heart leapt, it was as if this small child was reassuring me, letting me know all was going to be okay. I still cry when I think of her gesture, knowing that that 2 ½ year old knew just what I needed.
After Mass we joined my husband’s family for a traditional Christmas Eve meal and fun. We laughed; we danced and just enjoyed each other’s company. I laughed, danced and had a good time and when I got home, as is tradition, I filled the stockings, filling Rachel’s with candy, toys and small trinkets for the children. Everyone had gone to bed, so I was alone, which was good. I finished my task and just sat quietly watching the lights flicker on the tree, looking to Rachel’s picture and allowing myself to cry.
Christmas morning, my family arrived for breakfast, a tradition we started several years ago, we ate and then we all head into the living room to open the gifts. Of course like any household with any number of small children, chaos ensued. This is of course the sort of chaos I look forward to every year; I just love to watch the look on a child’s face when they get something they were hoping for. After the gifts were opened my nephew asked ‘Titi is it time for Rachel’s stocking now.’ I smiled and we prepared a place for them to spill out the contents of her stocking. It was a great feeling to know that when all the gifts were opened, this was still an important part of Christmas for my nephew and nieces. They stopped everything to open Rachel’s stocking and each take their share of the prizes that awaited them. It may not seem like a lot to some people, but this simple tradition has allowed Rachel to be a part of our festivities.
You may find yourself doing something similar that allows your loved one to be a part of your family celebration that is not uncomfortable to others, but rather, to become something to look forward to, that helps you and others remember them in wonderful ways.
We spent the remainder of Christmas day with my aunts and uncles, starting with a life-long tradition of gathering at my grandparents’ home. A note here, my grandparents are both deceased, but we have been gathering there every since I can remember, and my dad’s family has carried on this tradition. My grandmother died in 1976 and my grandfather in 1997, my grandmother’s birthday was Christmas Day, and we all had to be there. This gives you a glimpse of why traditions are important to my family and me.
After all the visiting, we headed home, unwound a little and then headed to bed. Sleep came after shedding much needed tears. It still hurts, it still feels unfair at times, but I know I am beginning to fully accept that Rachel is gone, and in doing so, I am beginning to let go. I know this is just another step in the healing, and even though I am uncertain at times, I am learning to welcome it.
This holiday has reminded me and shown me that Rachel is not forgotten, will not be forgotten and that she is very much a part of all our lives. It also made me aware of her presence in all the small and large occurrences that take place in our lives every day. Be it a small child who makes you smile, a family member who remembers, the kind words of a stranger, or the familiar traditions that speak of family and love. Whatever it is for you, it is there all around you. Love is an incredible gift, and when we are open to its wonder and power, it transcends all space and time, giving us a sense of warmth; knowing that even though our loved one is no longer present in our lives, they are not far away at all.
I received many gifts this Christmas, but the most wonderful of all was that of LOVE. For me as a Christian, it is love that saved us, and it is love that keeps us safe and protected. The amazing thing is that it all came in the form of a Child, the baby Jesus. And in my life, I have found that there is much wisdom and understanding that comes from children, which many of us adults sometimes miss. Their gift is unconditional love, they do not question, they do not wonder why we love them, they just know and give it right back to us.
There is healing in love, and it is love that remains with us always. Love never fails….
Blessings! and until we meet again.