I had no intention to cry on December 24th.
It started simply – a quiet house, and glorious alone time in front of the Christmas tree. The day melted away, and, before I knew it, I was reliving the magic of childhood and adolescence during this time of year. Soon, I was past the thoughts of Christmas cartoons, exchanging gifts with old boyfriends, and snowball fights.
I was remembering Mom.
This was my first Christmas without her, though we’d spent several apart over the years when Holiday travel back to the North meant blizzard-like conditions and cancelled flights. I didn’t have regrets because I enjoyed every moment I had with her, thank God. My pain came from the emptiness that nothing else could (seemingly) fill. It was no longer about missing her; this was about being physically unable to see her until eternity.
One Christmas memory blended into the next until all I remembered were feelings, photos, and a blur of wrapping paper. I couldn’t taste the dinners anymore, but hints of my mother’s smile peppered the evening until the images were too sharp, too strong. I choked on the memories earlier that day, stifling them until everyone went to bed. By early Christmas morning, I released them all in renegade tears. Accepting her freedom from sickness was the easy part, but the frustration over her absence brought the most pain.
I prayed for peace and greater clarity, knowing that, as with all requests to the Father, it would come. Sometime before dawn on December 28th, that prayer was answered during my sleep. I dreamed that I was in my current home with my husband, Brian, our daughters, and my mother-in-law. In the dream, I was seated at our dining table with our children, anticipating a birthday cake to be brought to me and for my family to sing “Happy Birthday.” I smiled, squirming in my seat…until I noticed what I was – and wasn’t – getting.
The birthday cake I anticipated? Just a crumbling, white dried-out slice with drier white frosting. The candle I planned to blow out? Someone already did, apparently. The beloved “Birthday” song? I received silence. I looked around at everyone, disappointed, quietly demanding answers. They continued smiling, uncomfortable, trying to make do with what we had. This dream needed no interpretation: “dead” situations were influencing my present. Greater was ready and waiting for me, but I couldn’t receive it because my emotions (fears, hurts, etc.) were blocking my ability to receive.
Dear reader, you and I have a screaming choice to make: live on purpose, live authentically, and, by all means, live for today. Those who have loved, taught, and left us had to go for their own reasons. Like the classic Hero’s Journey in literature, we can’t become who we’re supposed to by clinging to yesterday’s routine. We have been shaken, and life has been stirred up, but we and it must go on. Let’s do so as if we wish to become legends. Our lives are stories. Why should the most fascinating chapters be behind us?
I refuse to mark 2015 as only a challenging, hurtful year. Instead, I celebrate it as a benchmark year for completing long-term projects I’m keeping under wraps for now and seeing the fruition of answered prayer in ways I didn’t expect. Wherever you find yourself today, remember those you love, but release them into their “better.” In the process, that same gift will be given to you.