The words just don’t ring so true anymore.
Just as “congratulations” escapes my vocal cords at whatever the most recent pregnancy announcement is…
So these two words escape me now. In the heart of the holiday season, they fail me. And I stand there dumbfounded and silent in the moments following the common greeeting.
People say it at the checkout line, friends say this in their goodbyes if they are unsure if they will see you before Christmas day, it’s become common as a closing in emails this month.
And every single time I feel this anger and bitterness swell within me to the point where I want to scream back that “this Christmas is NOT Merry!!” I want to tell them that my son died and he’s not here to be sitting under the tree with the rest of the cousins in matching pajamas. I don’t have a Christmas list for him, I don’t need to (though I desire to so very much). And there’s a thousand “firsts” I’m not going to have. Not now, not ever. Our first Christmas as a family of 7, will leave only 5 of us at the kitchen table on Christmas morning.
How can it be a “Merry Christmas” when life feels so very unfair?
How can a Christmas be Merry in even this? In this life we now live as mothers who have buried our child. Some within the ground, some within our hearts, some of us both. How do you choose to try to see the “Merry” when all you can feel is the pain?
I don’t have a good answer. I suppose you just keep going. A moment here, a choice there… You got through the motions, if only to remind yourself of how to do this.
I’m tired of the unspoken expectations that are so evident yet nobody but us (the bereaved) see them…No, We won’t be including a photo in our Christmas card this year ( can’t you hear my mothers’ gasp and see her disapproving eyes!!??) and no, I’m not offering to make food for any parties (I don’t care all that much if we are invited anyway) , No, I’m not going to attend a family member’s baby shower (and no, I didn’t have another commitment). No, I don’t have Christmas lists made because I don’t really care about gifts… At least not physical ones.
I tell my husband that I can’t feel all these motions. It only feels numb and foreign and a bit wrong. And I see the pain in his eyes at my words. I desire for him to find joy- even if I can’t in some moments. I desire to see him truly laugh again. I desire to find and them be ourselves. I neither strive not desire to be the cause of pain that I see in those eyes. Yet, that is what I see.
“Merry Christmas”… How can it be?
The ache of knowing that without a doubt you will not get anything that will truly make you happy, truly bring you joy on Christmas morning… is unbearable.
True happiness would be holding my wiggly 8 month old son on my lap and watching him be mesmerized with wrapping paper& bows. Entertaining him with climbing in & out of a box. If only…
Then it would be a “Merry Christmas”…
But that can’t happen. I am certain, without a doubt, that this wish… Will not come true.
And I want to hide in a hole till it’s all over.
But I can’t…I must push through for the others I love- my Dan, my children, maybe even a bit of myself, perhaps.
So I go through the motions. We put up lights. We decorate a tree. We bake sugar cookies and plan to eventually see the big red guy…I try to make sure that my children here have a “Merry Christmas”. After all, they don’t need to carry the burden I do. They need to find joy, so that I can find it too- in them.
But the words don’t come. “Merry Christmas” escapes me time after time, filled by a long, awkward, silent pause.
Christmas is a season of excitement, of wonder, of joy, of merriment. It’s supposed to be marvelous , sparkly and magical.
But this year, I don’t feel the “merriment” of it.
I bet that Mary didn’t feel this joy either that first Christmas. She labored for hours. She had nothing to wrap her newborn son in. She had to lay him in a trough caked with old food and manure. And who knows what was buzzing in the hay our Savior slept on…
What if we turned “Merry Christmas” into “Mary Christmas”?
What if we chose to try to respond as she did?
Mary could have hemmed and hawed at the ghastly suggestion to lay her perfectly perfect newborn son, the King of all kings…in a feeding trough. She could have thrown up her arms in despair when the innkeeper said there was no room indoors for them. She could have sat and told her husband how unfair, how wrong the whole thing was- this giving birth outdoors in an open air stable, to the boy promised to be King of all kings.
She could have said “this isn’t fair” for a whole lot of reasons.
But instead, Mary was quiet. She was humble. She chose to make the best of whatever circumstances God gave her. And she started with this attitude within moments of finding out she was pregnant. Instead of muttering under her breath about how awful this traveling and birthing situation was, she instead took all the little blessings to heart “But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” ( Luke 2:19). She watched, she listened, she hoped, she saw. She watched as the shepherds came shouting of angels and a star and the King Jesus. She listened to their stories of glory and song coming from heaven. She hoped in the little babe in her arms. The King who would bring true Hope to the world, now nestled safe in her arms. She saw the beginning of a new history, birthed in the raw. She saw Redemption in human form. She would (over the years) see the King develop into her King Jesus and would see her own son die on a cross- a vicious and brutal death. She saw her sons birth, and her sons death all within her lifetime. She became a bereaved mother, just like us.
What if we tied to have a “Mary” Christmas, rather than a “Merry” one?
What if we tried to make the best of an impossible situation, and instead of trying to celebrate and create false joy; we instead, watched those around us, learned of true joy, focused on the true Christmas story- the one not on television. What if we hoped in the ways we could. What if we saw the “Mary” within us? And instead, wished others a “Mary” Christmas?