It’s that time of year again. The radio stations will not let me forget that bells will be ringing and this is not the time of year to be without the ones you love. Of all the depressing seasons, Christmas ranks at the top for a number of people. The entity of this holiday mocks those who are “barely getting through tomorrow” (Hard Candy Christmas © 1978 by Carol Hall). Most of the songs are downright depressing when you listen to the lyrics.
Last holiday season I wrote about a Christmas Without two members of my family who had passed on: my brother and my partner. My brother died in March, 2010, and my partner died unexpectedly the following July.
It was a hard holiday season to find joy. Last year, I found little bits of holiday cheer, here and there, but mostly, I found peace. Tranquility saw me through the time of year when togetherness with loved ones is seen as the ultimate holiday happiness.
This year, as December 25th relentlessly marches toward me, I add another who will no longer celebrate Christmas in my same realm: my mother. In August of this year, she joined other members of my family in the great beyond.
You can be swallowed up in sadness during the holiday season. If there was ever a time I wished for seclusion away from the world, this would be the time. Over Thanksgiving I told one of my daughters that I did not want to do this again. She thought I meant the cooking; what I meant was the holiday. I did not want to sadly celebrate another holiday with the heaviness of empty places at the table.
In the spirit of directing my mind away from hard reality, I’m going overboard with holiday decorations this month. Overboard for me means putting out more than just a few Christmas candles and trinkets. There is a 3-foot tree in my house. It’s fake, but at least it’s a tree instead of a picture of one on the mantle.
This year, I did something I rarely do: I sent out Christmas cards. Typically, I forget to send them until after Christmas and by that time, I’d feel funny sending them with a “Happy Belated Christmas” note attached. I have several addressed and stamped cards from various years; one is even from the early 90’s to someone I don’t remember knowing.
On Christmas Day, we plan to celebrate just like in “A Christmas Story.” Instead of Chinese, we’re doing sushi. We’ll have some traditional fare, too, for those of us who are expecting some of the Christmas trimmings.
Despite my overwhelming desire to halt the season of good cheer, the lights on the tree blink, the candles flicker and carolers on television continue to sing. This year in my year with my withouts, I don’t feel like celebrating a season of joy.
Yet, the season won’t leave me alone. I’m a reluctant wallflower at this dance of December and Christmas has walked over to where I’m silently sitting and is gently coaxing me onto the dance floor.
As I succumb to the wonderful smells of freshly baked cookies and snappy peppermint, I can picture those who are no longer here surrounding me with approval. “Celebrate,” they seem to say. “Celebrate the season with the ones you love. Celebrate our memories.”
I miss Chuck, Dan and Mom deeply. The holiday season reinforces their absence. If I could turn back the clock, I would take it back to when they were still with me and then, break the hands of time.
My holidays will forever have ribbons of sadness wrapped around gifts of joy. “Live in the moment, count your blessings, be thankful for those who love you.” Yes, I do these things and more, but it does not diminish a yearning for times past.
If, like me, you are celebrating a Christmas Without, I wish tranquility and peace for you. I will be honoring the past, acknowledging the present and hoping for the future this holiday season.
Sometimes the journey toward a goal is more rewarding than the goal itself. With that thought, I’ll continue to walk the Christmas Road to joy. Mayhap I will find it at along the way, mayhap I will find contentment from simply walking toward it.
May your own Christmas journey be filled with the gifts most precious to your heart. May comfort accompany you along the Christmas Road. May your Christmas Withouts be wrapped in tranquility and may the stillness of peace reign now and throughout your coming year.
J J Dare (pen name ) is the author of two published books, several short stories and thirty-plus works-in-progress.
Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch