Broken Hearts and Christmas

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“Somewhere there’s someone who dreams of your smile, and finds in your presence that life is worth while. So when you are lonely, remember it’s true: Somebody, somewhere, is thinking of you.” – Unknown

Christmas is the season of hope and miracles. Festive lights and decorations are everywhere. There is absolutely no escaping it. No matter where you are, music is playing. Wishes for snow and gifts are plentiful. To-do lists and errands seem miles long. Hustle and bustle. And exhaustion – all in an effort to have everything “perfect.”

For weeks I have been asked: Are you ready for Christmas? Are you in the holiday spirit? Don’t you love this time of year?

No. No. And this year, no.

For the record, I am not a Grinch. Most years, I am as wound up as a five-year-old waiting for the big day. Though no longer a child, I do believe in Santa. On Christmas Eve, I search the sky, looking for the jolly ol’ elf. And I believe in Christmas magic and the hope of this season. The Babe in Bethlehem is my Salvation.

But I am not really into Christmas this year.

I have freely admitted this to many people, and save for a few, I am greeted with shock and horror. Some people look at me like I am crazy.

But I am normal. And I don’t need a therapist and I don’t need an anti-depressant.

I just need people to understand that, for me, this is a difficult holiday season. I am going to smile. And I am going to laugh. And I am going to cry. And those tears are healing. Those tears are okay.

Christmas will be different this year. That doesn’t make it bad – it doesn’t make it good. It makes it different. I never wanted it to be different.

I wanted it to be perfect.

At some point in our lives, how we celebrate Christmas changes. Children grow up, family members move, dads pass away. Maybe, for the first time in my life, I really have come to understand that there is no such thing as the perfect Christmas.

I overheard a conversation that resonated with me. Two women were discussing the emphasis on to-do lists, and shopping and baking, “all for one day.” The older woman hit the nail on the head – that the emphasis is on the wrong place.

“All you need to be ready for Christmas is to be surrounded by the ones you love.”

Yet, this year, there will be very dear ones missing from our celebrations – but because of my I love for them, they will be in attendance, for they are always close in my heart. Always.

Undoubtedly, Christmas will be different. Acknowledging that difference and that I won’t do all the same things this year relieves me of some of the pressures of “perfect.” I won’t have to pretend I am happy if I am having a sad moment. Different will make previous memories more precious, and new moments memorable.

Different will give me an ever greater appreciation of what I have been blessed with, which will go a long way towards healing my broken heart.

Different will also force me to look outside of myself and share with others – hard as that may be – even if all I can do is muster up a smile or be polite.

Maybe different will cause me to become different – but in a good and more thoughtful way. Maybe it will give me a greater compassion for the lonely, the hurting or for those experiencing loss.

Maybe, just maybe, different will one day feel perfect.

“It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to one’s fellow man that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit.” – Isabel Currier

How are you helping yourself or a loved one this holiday season?

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Joy

Geez – where does the time go? I honestly feel like we just celebrated Christmas, and we are now ending Holy Week, looking forward to the joy of Easter morning, but also another holiday to celebrate without my dad.

He loved holidays because it gave him the chance to be with his kids and grandkids. Some holidays had the added bonus of other members of our large extended family being able to join in the celebration, which just absolutely made his day. Last Easter brought the pain of watching his quick decline in battling Alzheimer’s. This Easter, though we won’t see him, we will hear him in the hymns. We will hear him say very loudly, “He is risen indeed!” We’ll toast Dad as we gather for dinner, and chat about how weird this “year of firsts without him” really is…

This Easter Sunday also marks what would have been our parents’ 51st wedding anniversary, and I still thank my husband for insisting we do something to celebrate their 50th last year. Oh, to go back and look at photos of the dinner is difficult as you could visually see the decline from the disease. And to see my aunt and uncle (Dad’s siblings) wipe tears as they watched their oldest brother struggle was also hard to witness.

But the depression we felt was diminished by the joy of having the family together. Despite it all, we ate, hugged, laughed and enjoyed life. Kind of like Good Friday….it is so depressing, but then we have the joy of the Resurrection – life is worth celebrating!

April 8th of 2011, I sent a floral delivery to my mom. The card read “Happy Anniversary. All my love, Larry.” That’s how he signed the card every year. He couldn’t order the flowers, so I did it for him. Bless his heart, he liked the flowers I sent, even though he didn’t connect “anniversary.” (And somehow my mom knew I was behind the delivery!)

This April 8th, the flowers I ordered for him this year say “In memory of.” Kind of depressing, I know, but, life is worth celebrating, and he wouldn’t want it any other way.

Blessings to you and yours.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

 

Forward Motion

A year ago at this time, we watched my Dad steadily decline, succumbing to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The good days were becoming good moments, and those moments were few and far between.

Watching him go downhill was so difficult. Physically, he was strong and healthy. Mentally, the simplest of instructions were a challenge. Simple things we take for granted daily – like brushing your teeth or tying your shoes  – were tasks that he not only couldn’t do, but he couldn’t even understand what he was being asked to do. I remember assisting him by putting his shoes and socks on one morning. There was a brief moment of frustration in his eyes, almost like he was communicating that I shouldn’t be helping him, as he’s the dad. Maybe he briefly remembered tying my shoes when I was little? I don’t know. All I do know is that as our eyes met, mine welled up with tears while helping him, knowing that if he did have any idea what had been going on in his life with this disease, he’d be completely and totally humiliated.

For instance, Dad was 75 years-old. He worshipped nearly every single Sunday of his life. Seventy-five years of Sundays! But, on Easter Sunday last year, he didn’t even get the concept of being in church. Standing and sitting for readings and hymns completely confused him. He didn’t understand Communion – in fact, he made a scene so loud in the sanctuary during Communion that my poor mother hurried him out of the building, my sister trailing not far behind.

I think a good portion of the congregation was in tears witnessing this event. Many had known my dad for years, and they watched the steady downward spiral. It was no secret – his ability to live at home – with my mom caring for him – was coming to an end. A nursing facility was on the horizon for him – or so we thought.

As we move forward in our “first year without him,’ we now come upon Easter. It will be hard attend church and not think of the heartbreak we witnessed last year. But it will be even harder to see his name in the bulletin, as it will be amongst the long list of flowers ordered by those of us missing loved ones. His name will be listed under “In Memory of …”

There are just some things you are not prepared for when you are moving forward.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb