People always say that holidays and birthdays are the worst times for the aggrieved. If that’s the case, this month is a sadness superfecta with grief “land mines” sprinkled all over.
Last weekend, my family celebrated Thanksgiving and Jeff’s birthday, and I managed to slide through the two days unscathed.
Then I made the mistake of putting up the Christmas tree! Before you judge, you should know that Friday is Jeff’s birthday AND I always tried to have our main Christmas tree up and decorated by his birthday. We both enjoyed looking at the tree in the mornings as we drank coffee and had our prayer/devotional time, and this gave us a couple extra weeks to enjoy it. The tree was here. I could’ve waited, but that just felt wrong.
I didn’t struggle with decorating the tree. The problem came the following day when I sorted some old snowflake ornaments I intend to use for a smaller tree that will have a Frozen theme for the girls. I bought the snowflake ornaments for Jeff’s and my first Christmas together. Those little plastic snowflakes are what caused the floodgates to open…
Am I really doing this? Am I really going to have Veterans’ Day, and Jeff’s birthday and Thanksgiving and Christmas without Jeff? Am I really going to use those little snowflakes I bought with such celebration and hope as a newlywed to create a silly princess-themed tree for my daughters?
Will I take my ashes and allow them to become something beautiful–even if it’s not the “something” I want?
I have to daily bring myself back to the perspective that only Jesus can give me. I’m so thankful that He is patient in his reminders. In fact, what helped me most as I celebrated early-Thanksgiving with my family last weekend was not looking around and thinking of the missing faces, but rather it was thinking about the coming reunion with all who were absent. I looked at our small family reunion, our wonderful and abundant meal, and I thought of how it was a foretaste of the gathering and feast to come. I love how Timothy Keller expresses this in his book “The Prodigal God:”
“In Isaiah’s predictions of the new heavens and new earth, he declares that, like all homecomings, this final one will be marked by the ultimate party-feast (Isaiah 25). Jesus, too, constantly depicts the salvation he brings as a feast…And, of course, Jesus’ parable of the lost sons ends in a party-feast that represents the great festival of God at the end of history.” (pp. 105-106).
Grief stinks. Losing your amazing life partner is so painful (at any age)! But the grief and brokenness serve as neon-sign reminders (for me, at least) that God’s truth is THE truth, that this world is NOT my real home, and that Jesus really did come to defeat sickness, death, and all the powers of darkness. As Laura Story’s song “Blessings” eloquently and aptly points out:
“When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win,
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home.
It’s not our home.”
Isaiah 25:6-8 (NIV)
“On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine–
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth
The Lord has spoken.”