Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gift of Presence

The holidays are coming, and this year, they are not being greeted with the usual excitement. This year the anticipation has been replaced by dread.

When holidays are about family get-togethers, seeing others open the gifts you gave and watching their faces beam with joy, laughing together, and enjoying everybody, when those people are gone, it is hard. Traditions are hard when the traditional people aren't there to enjoy them with you. It could be parents, spouse, children, or friends.

When lives change big, big holes are created where the treasures used to be.

In our home, we are very traditional. We have a huge tree, five-foot diameter at the base, and eight feet tall. We bought it a few years ago to hold all our ornaments. Our ornaments are ones we've been collecting since 1988. The first Christmas Rob and I dated, we bought an ornament and had it personalized with both our names. Every Christmas after that we either bought an ornament with our names or we each bought an ornament. Then we had our four-legged children because we weren't planning to have two-legged ones, and they each got an ornament. Then Anna got her ornament. Then Robert got his ornament. It took time, but we eventually removed all ornaments that were not personal either in name of memory. All we have are named ornaments or ornaments with stories. It is pretty neat actually. Every year we put up the ornaments and tell the stories and laugh all over again.

Except this year the stories are a bit more painful than funny, and the personal ornaments that brought such great joy only magnify the empty place of the person not here to put up his ornament...either here with us or at his house with the kids.

My parents are gone. There is no family get together.

All the things we loved--the PEOPLE--we loved aren't here, and the hole is huge.

So, we held a meeting.

The very real option of ditching the holidays and going on a trip was put on the table. The option to not up a tree was laid out there, too. The option to scratch what we had always done and start all over was dropped into the mix.

"Like what?"

"Like what what?"

"Like what like we've never done?"

"Like anything we want to do."

Quiet.

"I like the tree," I ventured. "I like to turn on the lights, listen to quiet music, and just be."

Two heads nod.

"But I can't put up the personal ornaments this year." My voice cracks without permission.

Two heads nod.

"We can get new ornaments," I suggest.

Two bodies come to attention.

"Really? We can do that?"

"Really. We can do that."

Today we did.

We went tropical with lime green, Caribbean blue, and hot pink. Streamers and viney looking straight ornaments in all colors, fancy pink butterflies, lime dragon flies, and blue flowers. It is our Christmas Carnival tree. A million miles from the stoic somber trees we usually see. None of the Christmas decorum for us. No, sirree. We are all about celebration...in the brightest sense of the word.

We shopped for our unit in Afghanistan while we were at it. Tomorrow we bake cookies and put a box of homemade, "You rock. Thank you for all you do!" in the mail.

And then...

I don't know.

But I have a feeling it will include laughter, a lot of cookies, some Kleenex, and Latin rhythms.

I wish I knew a way to make it better. I wish I knew a way to take away the ache. I wish...

But this is what I know. We won't always ache. We won't always feel like there is a hole...unless we choose to. We won't always...wish.

One day we will enjoy the new treasures, be comfortable in the new traditions, laugh to new jokes. One day the room won't be lit by the stings on the trees but the faces around us. One day we will see through the veil to rejoice in the lives that have filled our lives.

I already see them.

I don't know how God is incorporating them yet, but I see faces...all around me. I feel the new lives, the warmth of the knitting. It is good. It is very good.

And I choose to focus on THOSE gifts, the gifts of the present, the gifts of presence.

Do they "fix" things? No. They don't replace the loved ones we lost. But if we are going to be here, I sure am thankful for the gift of their presence.

4 comments:

mizzbrizz said...

The gift of presence is something I have been focusing on, too. Christmas has been hard for me for a long time due to past hurts. The year of my divorce, I was going to skip Christmas. The kids were going to be at their dad's with our old tree and ornaments. Things that at one time had meant something to me. Things I wanted to no longer hold onto. Christmas had once meant so much to me, though...the spirit of giving and caring used to warm me and lift me. It had disappeared over time; was it me or the world? I don't know.
Instead, I realized it wasn't about me. It was about the kids. They wanted a tree that year. So, I went and found one that suited me and our new family. I bought pink, blue, and silver ornaments. So, I totally get it. And this year, I finally am excited. I have finally found my happy around Christmas. I hope you'll find yours again, too...looks like you're well on your way! Love you!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jerri,
Can't remember how I found your blog, but I've been lurking for a few months now :)
I'm not going to say how brave you are, or how amazed I am at your huge heart and courage to keep going through each day - I'm sure you get told that a lot.
Also, I'm not going to say I know how you feel, because I don't.
However, I do know how it feels to get through that first Christmas without family. God called me out of the cultish church I'd grown up in, and I left. Which also meant leaving behind my entire family, apart from 3 aunties, 2 of whom live in different countries to me! That first Christmas really was my first Christmas - EVER! We didn't do Christmas in that church, so it was a completely foreign experience to me, surrounded by people who weren't my people.
My point, in writing this small novel, is to say that you are right. It does get better. The good memories stay, but the pain eases from a constant, almost-overwhelming anguish, to a sharp ache that comes less and less frequently. It's not that I've forgotten my family (I still miss them and wish they could know who I am now, and be a part of my kids' lives), but God has healed the pain. It's been 14yrs... and I too, look forward to being with them in heaven, without all the stupid differences that separate us now.
These are hard times, but God is faithful... and you ARE getting through this.
Donna

Jerri Kelley said...

MIzzBrizz,
Yes, it is for the kids. Much more to say on this, but it's a post on its own. BTW, our colors are lime green, Caribean ocean blue, and bright pink.VERY festive. Butterflies, dragonflies, and spirally things that look like vines. Very tropical. Very outdoors. VERY us. :-)

Jerri Kelley said...

Donna, I'm so glad you took time to write.

First of all, you humble me. I have no words...only heart deep gratitude for your kind words.

You, my dear, are courageous. To choose...to faithfully, bravely choose...you share your courage with me in sharing your story. On this day, I read again your words with tears in my eyes. How faithful the Lord is to give me courage when I need it. How deeply humbled I am that you share your story...your courage...

And, yes, one day we will gather in heaven where the perfection of ourselves in Christ is fulfilled and the issues that divide are no longer. THAT, my sister, will be an amazing Christmas indeed. :-)

Thank you...for more than you know or I can put in words. You bless deep.

With humble gratitude,
Jerri