Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Santa remembered: Grief during the Holidays

Grieving, even as a Christian, is hard. The extreme sense of loss of a loved one can never be explained to anyone who hasn't walked behind a casket. The sorrow is ever present, and you never really get over it - it has been almost 4 years since my father's death and I still struggle. The holidays can make grief even more painful; making the season anything but joyous. For several years, I let my grief hang over my head like diseased mistletoe and I stuggled to overcome the pain. I didn't want to walk the memory halls of Christmas' past; I didn't want to remember. I put away anything that would make me remember - photos and letters - packed away. Yet, like a candle piercing through the darkest of nights, memories rushed upon me and there was nothing to do but open those doors that I had long left closed.  To my surprise,I found joy again, not like before; but there is was waiting to be opened, written by the hand of a long lost friend.

My father was born on Christmas Day, so it was fitting that his favorite holiday was Christmas. Every year he would begin the season, at Thanksgiving, by playing Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole's holiday albums. I remember coming down seeing him dancing in the living room, by himself mind you, and singing loudly. My father understood that Christmas time was a special time of year - it was a time of magic, fun, and reverence. He encouraged us to believe in the unbelievable- that there really was a Santa and that many years ago a Savior was born.
 I remember one Christmas sneaking down the stairs because I believed I had heard Santa. I peeked around the corner to see my father sitting by the fireside, Christmas tree lights illuminating his face, drinking hot chocolate. He then turned around and said, "Why don't you come here and wait on Santa with me." I jumped into his lap and snuggled deep; comforted by the thought that my father believed in Santa too. I never saw Santa that night, due to the fact that I fell asleep; but in the morning there was a letter addressed to me from Santa. It said, "Sorry I missed you little one. I kissed you on the cheek. Merry Christmas, Your Santa"
 From then on I never forgot to write Santa a letter, and every year he would write me back. The last letter I ever wrote and will ever receive was December 25th of 2010.  At the time, I took the words for granted, but now they hold more meaning, because in his own quiet way my Dad had given me a ageless Christmas present for the soul. These are the words he wrote...

Dear Ones,

                The Ringing in your hearts will never cease as long as there is believing - in love, in goodness, in gentleness, in kindness, in Christ. No light can ever go dim, nor ever cease, but only brighten with Christmas in our hearts. The lights and bells of Christmastime will always remind us to hold fast to these truths. My joy is knowing you have chosen well for all Christmas'.

Merry Christmas, Your Santa
Christmas in our hearts...such a simple and complex statement. How can I keep Christmas in my heart when I am grieving? By letting the holiday in. It is as simple as that. Much of my sadness had stemmed from NOT letting the season of goodness, gentleness, love, kindness, and Christ back into my life. My father will never be present physically for another Christmas...but in my choice to block out the season it was as if I was watching him die all over again. I was grieving not just for him, but for the loss of Christmas in my heart. My father had wanted me to remember...he somehow knew that someday I would need to remember.

I still desperately miss my father and there will always be tears - how can there not be when you love deeply? But I can now say, that Christmas is no longer dreaded by my heart. Instead I have found that every Christmas my joy grows. It brigthens the corners of my heart, restoring my faith, and it is there that I find my father once again. It is there that God grants me peace... 

Merry Christmas, Dad...thank you for teaching me
to believe.

1 comment:

Anita said...

Hi Tiffany,
I loved reading your tender hearted post. Your dad sounds wonderful. May you feel our Lord's tender touch this Christmas.