THOSE WE’VE LOST. I took this photo of my brother a few years ago, at our uncle’s funeral. Then, two years ago, I buried this brother. Six months after that, my other brother. Is this why the older we get, the more we feel sad on those days we traditionally gather with family and friends? Days like Christmas? If so, what’s a sad and seasoned soul to do with Christmas?
I’M NOT GOING TO EDIT THIS.
Other than obvious errors such as misspellings, I’m not going to back up and revise or rethink.
That’s not my normal practice. I rethink a lot.
Here’s my question:
Is it just me, or does Christmas generally get more reflective—and even sadder—as we grow older?
We’re a couple weeks from Christmas Day, and I’m trying to savor the season. Perhaps it’s easier for me than for many because I have my grown kids and their young children, ages six and under, within 20 minutes of my front door.
So, it’s lively here from time to time. More so since we picked up three-year-old Maizey, a black lab mixed with I don’t know what. We rescued her on the morning she was to be put down for tearing things up when left alone all day. Not a problem here because Buddy the Dog and I are here all day, so she’s good. I try to tell her every day, “Maizey, you’re alive.” She was almost ash.
Jesus is late to Christmas in my head
When I turn my mind to Christmas Day, I’ve got to say Jesus is not my first thought. He’s a thought. Certainly, in the top 10. But he’s not where my mind goes first.
On the landing up the stairs to my office there are pictures on the wall. I’m in the center, standing in Germany, holding an umbrella. I’m wearing a colorful jacket I borrowed for the day from a lady—the mother of the former exchange student my family and I were visiting. I love that happy picture.
Surrounding me are pictures of all the dogs in the lives of my family here.
My son saw the wall with some new pictures and said, “There you are, the only one in the family who didn’t want dogs, surrounded by dogs.”
Oh no. I just stepped out to count the dog pictures and I realized we don’t yet have Maizey up there. I’ve got to fix that. She’ll make the sixth dog up there. Only my son is dogless. It’s ironic because he started it all by getting the first dog, Mosby, 13 years ago.
We had to send her to the Beyond a few weeks ago. Before that, it was my son’s beautiful Siberian Husky, Juneau. My son went from two dogs to zero.
How do dead dogs connect to Christmas?
I’m wondering what this has to do with Christmas, now.
Oh yeah. Where does my mind turn as I look forward to Christmas?
I’m thinking about my son. He’s never had a family Christmas without Mosby. How will he do?
I’m thinking about the widows and the children back in Ohio, living without my two younger brothers who died.
And there’s my sister, caregiver of my mom who’s blind from a stroke and in frail shape.
Christmas isn’t the same for them anymore.
Nothing like the excitement from our childhoods.
Nothing like the explosive joy in a Bethlehem field when angels lit the sky.
It’s more like what Mary experienced,
“Quietly, she pondered all of this in her heart” (Luke 2:19, Casual English Bible).
There’s the sadness from all we’ve lost in recent years and in distant years.
Why do we feel that more than the happy and joyful and sometimes funny Christmases?
The year we were preparing to send our daughter off to college, we got her a lot of practical gifts. Turns out, she did not want towels and bag clips for Christmas.
We still call that the Bag Clip Christmas, which I’ve preserved on video for re-release at Christmas. A counterpoint to “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Note to self: re-release it.
Oh, Jesus. It’s your birthday celebration. And it may actually have been close to your birthday, given some of the recent news from archaeology: “Christians picked December 25 before pagan Romans did.”
But you’re not first in my head when Christmas comes to mind.
I don’t want to diminish you behind dead brothers, a sick mother, and dead or dying dogs. But I do.
Change my mind this Christmas.
I don’t want to diminish my dead brothers, a sick mother, or the love I have for dead and dying dogs. But I want to remember there is a season to cry and there is a season to laugh.
Grandchildren can be a distraction to reflective thinkers. But a good distraction—one reminding us that this season started with a Child.
I want to feel the pain of the losses. To carry the pain is to honor the lost. But I want to make more room for the joy at Christmas, too.
Like many, I’ve had enough pain to fill the head and heart. But I’ve had enough joy, as well.
It’s a turf battle inside me. Both the pain and the joy deserve time and space.
It may be too much to ask for a perfect balance, but on Christmas Day, at least, might the lion’s share of the pain go somewhere else?
I want to ponder both and feel both and remember those we’ve lost. But I don’t want to miss what is now.
Christmas story freshly told
Here’s a little reminder of how it started.