Sunday, December 13, 2009


If you live long enough, you have the misfortune of "celebrating" holidays without a dear loved one who has passed away. No matter how hard you try to "keep tradition" it is never the same. Decorations can look the same, activities and people sound the same and sometimes even the food can taste the same, but something is always "not quite right."

I watched this happen to my mother after her parents died when I was a teenager. I couldn't understand the magnitude of her loss and the sadness that prevailed even though the rest of us tried so hard to make things cheerful for her.

Eight years ago, when my own mother passed away in November, I finally understood the depth of sadness she must have felt. My first holiday celebrations were basically ritualistic and void of any feelings. My family and I were consoled by friends and included in their celebrations or we broke tradition and did something totally different. Friends tried hard to make things better and joyous but I remember how empty it all seemed.

After that life changing event, I found myself trying to duplicate certain food dishes or experiences in an effort to reconnect with my mother and "home". I remember the year my daughter was born, and she was too young to travel 1,300 miles to see family. That Christmas, was the saddest Christmas of my whole life, even sadder than when my mother died. You see my husband and I waited 17 years to conceive this child (our oldest is adopted but loved as much as if he were born to us). I was sad because I had the best gift in the world and I couldn't share her with my family. Even more heart breaking, my daughter would never know her "Me-ma".

Recently, during our annual visit back to where my husband and I grew up, we visited with more than 80 relatives over a two week period. For my husband's mother, it was an especially sad Thanksgiving, as her sister had unexpectedly died just 7 weeks before. Her whole family would be gathering for Thanksgiving. For the siblings, husband and children who came and tried to "carry on as normal" it must have been difficult. It was comforting I'm sure for them to be with family, but painful at the same time. So many memories, so much fresh pain still lingering in their hearts. To top it all off, the woman who had died, would have celebrated her birthday that same weekend.

The death of a loved one changes you forever. Even knowing that those who have passed on before us are in heaven and we will see them some day, it is still difficult to move forward. It's like life just grabs you and drags you along. I can't imagine not knowing Jesus Christ and having the assurance of seeing them again.

A result of my recent maturity is knowing that my comfort is no longer found in the assurance I'll see my mother and other dead relatives again, it comes from knowing that Jesus is my brother, Lord and Savior - family. That home is heaven, not here on earth. My longing is not to see my loved ones who have passed on, but rather to see Jesus face to face for the first time. That is my longing.

Friends, family is valuable and an important gift from God, but our desire should always be to know intimately, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the heart of God. If you have never really taken time to get to know Jesus, it's never to late. Spend some time with him today.

"I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High." Psalm 9:1-2

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