Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas #2

I don't really remember why we were out, and I don't remember the day or even the month.  It obviously must have been late November or early December. 

But whatever the reason and whatever the day Pam and I were near the Galleria and decided to go to Blue Mesa for an early dinner.  We were immediately seated.  In fact, because we beat the rush we pretty much had half of the restaurant to ourselves. 

I am not sure who noticed it first, or whether we both noticed it immediately and just thought we could tune it out.  It is not as though the music was deafening.  But for both of us it was unbearable.  I have never done this before or since, but I asked the waiter if he could possibly turn the music off in our section of the restaurant.  He probably thought we were atheists or at least not Christians and objected to the music on that basis.  He told me he couldn't because of the other customers, so there we were.

In retrospect we probably should have just left.  It was just a matter of time before the pain of the moment would express itself.  It was inevitable.  Predictably, neither of us was able hold back the tears, and when the food finally came we resolved to eat quickly and get out as fast as we could.  We also resolved to avoid public places like restaurants until Christmas had come and gone.

When we were all together as a family on Christmas Eve I always liked to play Christmas music during dinner.  Now, those same songs that once accompanied our times of greatest joy brought nothing but overwhelming pain.  Now, those same songs simply served as a particularly painful reminder of the family Christmas that we would never again experience on this side of heaven.

Now here we are a year later traveling through our second Christmas season without Jonathan.  While things have changed in some ways over the last year, in many ways they are the same.  Christian and Dani were traveling last year, and because of that Pam and I were largely able to avoid the holidays.  It may be that because we were able to opt out of Christmas last year this seems more like a first for both of us.  The difference is that this year there really isn't a way to hide.  Among other things, we are determined to make Christmas fun again for our family.

For those in serious grief, this time of year is like the proverbial unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.  The unstoppable force is time.  The immovable object is Christmas (other times it is Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc.).  They will come together -- we will have to deal with it.

It seems to be the conventional wisdom among grief counselors and others that times such as Christmas prove not to be as bad as people expect, and that the real anxiety is in the days leading up to such occasions.  I don't think that is true -- it certainly has not proven to be true for me.

In fact, not long ago Pam and I started attending a support group for people who, like us, have lost children.  Most of the families involved in the group are in their year of "firsts," and it has been heartbreaking and at times overwhelming to hear their stories and to experience the freshness of their pain.  Almost universally, these wonderful people had heard that the reality of Thanksgiving would not be as bad as they feared, and almost universally each of them actually found it to be worse than they feared.  So much for the conventional wisdom.  So, if that has been your experience you are by no means alone.

The other thing that many have shared is that they are most at peace when they are serving others.  I personally do not find that at all surprising.  I think that God designed us to serve each other.  In fact, when we love and serve others our love for God expresses itself most fully.  To find freedom from grief, or just about anything else that weighs us down in life, we have to get over ourselves.  We have to see the true meaning of life -- which is so much bigger than ourselves.  That is just a spiritual reality.

May God bless and keep you during this great Christmas season.  As I have contemplated Christmas for myself, I am reminded of how grateful I am that Jesus lived, died and rose again for all of us.  I am also reminded of how blessed I am to have so many wonderful friends, and such a great family.

Merry Christmas!!


Love God ... Love people ... Advance the Gospel.


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