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Monday, December 23, 2013

An Empty Place

Holidays are a time of joy, happiness, family. Whether it is Thanksgiving or Christmas, an anniversary, or birthday, they are special times in our lives when we celebrate with loved ones close by, or at least on our minds. My Daddy died at the end of October, so the first Thanksgiving and Christmas were not the same. My mother was deep in mourning, and as an only child, it was hard to handle my own grief, and deal with hers too. My Daddy loved The Lord, and I knew he was celebrating with Jesus, but it still was a lonely, empty spot where he had always been. He always liked Christmas, because he had a chance to do for others. It didn't matter if it was family gifts, or giving extra to his church, or rewarding those who worked for him. He was a sweet, gentle man that got great joy from the joy he could give to others. He was a very quiet man, so not everyone saw all he did for others.

My mother-in-love left us right after Christmas and New Year in 2011. The last Christmas was the first without her. Another empty place. She liked Christmas, but as she got older, she relied on me to decorate for her, and do her shopping for her grandchildren, and great grandchildren. When she was still independent, she would bring all the gifts to our house, and we would wrap everything Christmas Eve after Church. Between that and the pre- preparations for dinner the next day, we were up very late. She always brought Christmas cookies she had baked, and a loaf of her Pumpkin for each grandchild, and one for us! that was her signature Christmas goody. I never got the recipe from her, because it didn't seem right to supersede her specialty. One year she made ceramic trees for all of us. Lights fit into holes on the tree, and when plugged in created a beautiful hand made tree!  She also has been having Christmas with Jesus since she left us.

For Christians that know for sure their loved ones are in heaven, the sting of death and separation may be a little easier, but our loved ones are still missed! We miss their physical presence, we miss their voice, their touch, their laughter. We miss what our life was like, because they were a part of it. Holidays can be a time for family to share favorite memories of the one who went home. It can be a time of honoring them with donations to those less fortunate, and a time of looking through old pictures. It is still a sad time, but it can also be a sweet time of reliving their life with us. One thing we know is that holidays will take on a knew look when a loved one leaves us. Sometimes the second year of holidays may be more painful than the first, because we are still a little numb, and just beginning the grief process. 

Remembering our loved ones is healing! It's O.K. To think about them, it's alright to cry. Pain in grieving does not last forever. The missing your loved one will always be there until God calls you home. The gaping hole that person left in our life will flare up and hurt, sometimes because of a holiday, or a special song, or even a smell. My mother- in -love always wore the same perfume, and even now, if I pull one of her blankets out of the closet to use, the scent is there. I have washed those blankets, and yet the essence of Mary is still there. Painful as it may be, pushing through the memories, the pain, and the loss will eventually heal the broken heart. Never forget that God is close to the broken hearted. As He says in Isaiah 61:1-3, God will heal your pain. He sees all your tears. Start a knew tradition in your family this Christmas, designed specifically to honor your loved ones who have gone on, whether it just happened or many years ago. The simplest is to have a specific candle for each one. Light each one, on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day to honor them. Think on their influence in your life, and Thank The Lord for the time you had with them. Most of all remember God knows your grief, He gave His only Son to die for us. They were reunited, but for the time Jesus had our sin piled on Him, He and the Father were separated. God sees, God knows, God will see you through not only Holidays, but the other sad, empty places too!