by Liz Johnston
by Liz Johnston
Yesterday I sat with a group of women who were discussing their holiday plans. One of them mentioned the many trees she placed throughout her house, another named her daughter as the reason they have a tree at all. A natural topic of discussion the week before Christmas—but a discussion in which I care not to participate.
Last year we went to Florida, as if we could outrun our grief, and completely pretended that it wasn’t Christmas as we sat sadly by the pool. This year we are participating on a modified, “game time decision” schedule. Trying to be there for those we love as best we can. But there is no part of me that wants to participate in talks of the bustle and merriment of it all. I am neither bustling, nor merry.
In one particularly awkward moment of this group discussion, one of the women turned to me and said “Is it wrong of me to say that I don’t even want my son to come home for Christmas?” My only reply was to get up and leave. And not return. I put my forehead on the desk in front of me and cried until I couldn’t anymore. I cried until I was tired. Dodging emotional landmines is exhausting work.
Later this woman came to apologize for being insensitive-- as she realized I was hurt by her lamentations. To her credit, she had the humility to not only apologize, but to thank me for my forgiveness. It was a moment of reflection for her and an opportunity to extend some grace for me.
After this exchange, I decided to write her a letter of forgiveness. Just for my journal’s sake. (Writing is coping for me.) And as I wrote myself into the direction of my choice, I realized that I actually felt sad for her. It struck me that she did not relish every second she might have with her son. She did not look forward to him. She did not see her son as the flower of the universe, or as her favorite person.
I am fortunate to have felt and to feel that way about Jordan, but great love leads to great loss, and for this reason, I will never have a Merry Christmas again. Ever. I will survive. I may even enjoy parts of the day, but I will never be merry in his absence. I will never rejoice in the traditions we shared, nor look forward to holidays without him. I will do my best to seek moments of joy, for his sake, but merry? No.
When people say “Merry Christmas” to me, they realize it probably won’t be. But they wish it would be. They wish it could be. They wish I didn’t have to endure such sadness. And so I appreciate and receive that wish.
And here is my Christmas wish for you: that you hug your kids (or whoever your favorite people are) just a little bit longer. That you are fully aware of the gift of time you share. That you delight in their presence. That you speak lovingly of them, and to them. And that you have a very Merry Christmas. Together.