|photo by Margo Kalfas Mohney|
For the 2013 holiday season, I am hosting a blog series called Hurting for the Holidays. Twenty-six amazing guest writers are sharing their hearts, hurts, and helps to help those of us who carry an internal ache to navigate this celebratory season. Find all posts in the series here, and participate via social media through the hashtag #HurtingfortheHolidays.
I used to love Christmas. When I was young, we’d put the tree up after Thanksgiving and begin our decorating, pulling out the old familiar ornaments, adding new ones every year. Gram and Gramps would come out from Illinois for two weeks and Gram would fill the kitchen with her smells of home made bread, apple pie and “cinnamon kisses” -- the left over crust dough after the pies were made, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and a tab of butter, rolled up and cut into inch bites, then baked. Yum!
As youngsters, my three brothers and I would wait for the morning and run into a living room filled (and I mean filled) with gifts, and family and love. Later, as we moved out one by one, we still showed up to Mom’s house early Christmas morning and breathed in the smells of Christmas: turkey and stuffing and pies cooking; fire wood crackling in the fire, the scent of the fir tree in the air.
One by one, the boys got married, and we welcomed more at Christmastime. Oh, I loved getting together with my brothers…I adored each one of them. It didn’t quite feel like “home” to me until all three of them had walked through the door. Some times we’d all go outside and play football, or shoot off potato guns, or ride motorcycles; or sit around the table and catch up, but we would always end up, after the presents and dinner, in the living room playing Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary until way after midnight. The best of times!
Gramps died in the early 80’s and Gram stopped coming out, and a little later mom and dad divorced. People were added along the way; first a nephew, then another, then a niece, then another; a new sister in law, a step father, I even added a boyfriend in there a couple times. But we were still there – David Margo Billy and Kris - and Christmas was still the best time of the year!
Then my big brother died one month after the Christmas of 2005, and everything changed.
It was no longer a gathering of family for me…it was a reminder of what was gone. What was lost. It was a hole, and no amount of food or gifts or time could fill it. The first year without him was horrific; the loss hit me in the face as I walked into a room that didn’t have him in it. My body felt like it was trying to get air into it’s lungs by breathing from a bag that has a hole in the bottom. I couldn’t. Panic filled my veins, my heart pounded (as it is now as I recall the immense sorrow), my limbs quaked. This, this is what Christmas is going to be like now. I knew.
I am supposed to be celebrating the birth of my Lord, and I still can’t get out of bed that morning without tears, and during the day I have to remind myself to breathe…because I don’t want to. I don’t want to sit with a bunch of people (we throw in neighbors and friends of friends now) and pretend I’m having a fun time…when I’d rather be home alone, waiting for the day to pass. I don’t want to sit and have pictures taken, because there’s a black hole in the middle of it, and it just looks wrong. It feels…wrong.
Come each November, I feel my heart begin to tighten, preparing itself for another Christmas without him. I put on a brave face and pretend I’m having a good time, while my insides are burning and my heart is pounding and my soul is screaming “Get me out of here!”
I want to feel Christmas again…the joy and the laughter and the gratefulness of family. But I can’t. I can’t gather together for joy, because it hurts. Still. And so I wait for it to get here quickly and leave just as quickly. Then my heart can beat again without the pain and sorrow and loss.
My faith is still strong, held together by wood and blood and love. My Lord is ever near and ever faithful, full of mercy and kindness, and I know He knows my pain. And He understands. Because that is who He is. My family is still strong, marching forever forward.
But Christmas . . .Christmas is broken. Sharp jagged edges of it may come together again one day, but there will always be a piece missing.
And in my soul, Christmas will always be broken.
I so appreciate Margo's visceral description of how grief is physical, how it knocks you over in both body and soul. I can certainly identify with that. And I also appreciate Margo's excruciating, exquisite honesty. I think that often we as Christians feel like we are not "allowed" to say that we are struggling in a particular area that is supposed to feel happy. But we are. There is grace for everything. Is there anything you need to be honest about to help yourself navigate this year's holiday season?
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Margo is a mixed media artist and creator of Legacy of a Single Girl Art. She also writes about her Lord and her life on her blog of the same name at http://margomohney.blogspot.com.