The lights dimmed and silence descended upon the congregation. One by one, we lit small white candles, creating a glowing blanket of light to warm away the chill. The music started playing, and I sat mouthing the words to Silent Night like I do every year at the Christmas Eve service because I do not trust the strength of my voice. The cap on my emotions is loosened this time of year. What is it about Christmas?
Next month will mark seven years since I last held my mother’s hand, but this Christmas without her feels just as raw as the first. I have thought of her often throughout this year. She has been my inspiration on a lot of those days when I’m sick and my body hurts.
It would be so easy to give into it…to surrender to the feelings of weakness and depression. Then she’s there in the corner of my memory, soldiering through something much worse, and I take on the day with a smile pasted to my face. She’s always there when I think of her, and that should give me peace…but what I would like more than anything in the world is her hug.
To lose someone you love is to alter your life forever…The pain stops, there are new people, but the gap never closes…This hole that you have is the shape of the one you lost, no one else can fit it.
In the last couple of years I experienced a lightness of heart over the holidays, and I thought it was a sign of moving on. I know now that I’ve just been trying not to think about it, essentially blocking out anything that taps into my tears. My grasp on nonchalance was shaky by the second bar of the song, and I hoped that I wouldn’t drop my candle.
When I looked over at Joan (my mother-in-law), who was sitting next to me, I saw the same pain: her husband passed away unexpectedly just last January. Seeing the tears in her eyes broke my control, and we cried together while everyone around us sang. I had to pull away or I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop. I’m sorry for that. After Mom died, my life did not return to sanity until I learned how to manage my emotions. I couldn’t afford to lose the control that I traveled so far to find.
I picked up where I left off once I was home for the night. I needed my cry, and I needed privacy. I believe there is strength in showing your vulnerability…I’m just not strong enough with this hurt. So, in the silent night, I cried alone for every time that I wanted to but didn’t.
I wish I had a happy twist waiting in the wings, but I don’t. I cried myself to sleep on the couch and woke with gritty eyes. I washed my face, pulled on clothes, and steeled myself to go round two for Christmas with Dad.
I don’t consider Christmas a bitter or even a sad time of year…not at all. I love Christmas.
But it overwhelms me.