On Giants' Shoulders

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Isn't Always Happy

I've been pondering, not the unhappiness surrounding our Christmas, but the unhappiness that must cast a bit of a shadow over the Christmas of some of the people I care about. I just found out last month that my cousin who lost his wife of over 30 years a few years back had remarried and then been divorced by his new wife 3 months later. He will certainly probably spend Christmas with some of his children, but there's got to be an empty space in his heart as well. My brother-in-law is celebrating his 7th Christmas without my sister. Now I'm sure he will spend some of the time with his daughter and her in-laws, but he's a fairly shy guy and I'm sure that celebrating in the midst of someone else's Christmas isn't all that much fun for him.

I've only spent one year in the middle of someone else's Christmas. It was the year my father died and my mother and I were staying temporarily at my aunt's. What I realized is just how hard it is to be in someone else's space, in the midst of someone else's traditions. It happens to most of us once we get married and spend the requisite Christmas with the inlaws, yet usually we manage a bit of our own celebration as well. When death intrudes (especially when it does so close to Christmas) it can put a pall over the whole celebration. My husband's mom also died close to Christmas 5 years ago, so my Christmas more than once has been surrounded by the shadow I'm talking about.

I think that the secular nature of much of the festivities actually makes the pain worse. When you are spending your time focused on the actual event that we are celebrating it's possible to remind yourself that death is not the end, that the Incarnation was about bringing us an inestimable gift that death cannot take away. I'm pretty sure my cousin (who's a Protestant pastor) is spending his Christmas focused on the right things, and will be less busy than he was as a young dad many years ago. Yet I'm also sure that he's missing someone whom it feels like should be there.

It's possible to get so focused on the "perfect Christmas" that we forget that for some people even a tolerable Christmas will be hard to pull off. We've had the odd Christmases here. The year my husband was in the hospital with a broken leg is one example. This Christmas will seem a little odd as well because my daughter's family won't be here for the first time. I've also been too sick this month to really pull off anything close to the perfect Christmas. However, I've been sort of hoping for a Christmas miracle of peace and joy not only for us, but for the lonely people out there for whom Christmas can seem mostly like a day to be endured. My prayer is that the O Antiphon for today will really be true for them: "Oh Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven. Come break down th prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and lead your captive people into freedom." Isaiah 22:22.

1 Comments:

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Wendy said...

God bless you! I hope you are feeling better!

My husband well remembers the Christmas after his dad's sudden death. They went to visit friends in Florida - about the most different Christmas possible. They all say today that it was the best possible Christmas that year. The familiar traditions would have been too hard with the absence. By the next year, they were able to move forward.

A good reminder that our real home is heaven and we are all moving towards it.

 

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