Let’s all put on our thinking caps for a minute and see if we can count how many different ways we’re told to be happy this season. I’ll start with the song Deck the Halls which is rather insistent that it’s the season to be jolly. Let’s see . . . then there’s Winter Wonderland. The very first verse tells us we’re gonna be happy tonight ‘cause we’re walking around in a snow-covered world—probably with a layer of ice underneath. But it’s gonna be real pretty. Oh, and we can’t leave out The Christmas Song by Alvin and the Chipmunks. “Christmas, Christmas time is near. Time for toys and time for cheer . . .” Great. Even the animals are in on the conspiracy. And that’s just a smidgen of the Christmas music. Don’t forget that seemingly everyone ends their conversations with “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!”
But unfortunately, not everyone feels jolly or merry or happy or cheerful or whatever other term you choose to describe the joyous emotions of the season. As a matter of fact, there are many who would prefer that the season just go away. Let’s fast forward from Halloween to January 2nd. That should fix it.
If only that was true. But hiding from the holidays won’t make the world right. It won’t bring back what has been taken and it won’t make it hurt any less. As difficult as it is, facing the pain and finding ways to acknowledge those who are no longer with us is better than trying to pretend it never happened and they never existed.
So light a candle in their memory. Hang their stocking in a special place of honor. Fix their favorite dessert or play their favorite song—or tell your favorite story about them. Continue a tradition they loved. Allow them to be a part of your celebration. Cry when you need to . . . smile when you can . . . laugh if the opportunity presents itself. By inviting those we have lost back into our lives, especially at this time of year, we are acknowledging their importance and facing their absence. We can only slay the dragons if we are willing to engage them in battle. And if ever Death had a form other than the Grim Reaper, I’d say a fire-breathing dragon would be appropriate. We may come from the battle scarred and changed, but we will survive.
Before you leave this page, I hope you’ll take a look at the picture attached to this particular post. The Christmas tree is the one that graces the foyer at the funeral home in Savannah. It’s a simple tree, covered in red berries and pine cones and icicles that manage to travel all over the building. But look beyond the tree at the window. There you’ll find a wreath, wrapped in black ribbon; a wreath proclaiming to the world that we lost one of our own. In one picture, you find symbols of both the joy of the season and the heartbreak of loss. And so it is in life. To quote Khalil Gibran, “Joy and sorrow are inseparable . . . together they come, and when one sits alone with you . . . remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” You cannot have one without the other, and as we get mired up in this season of contradictions, please remember—to try at all costs to avoid life’s sorrows is also to give up all hope of life’s joys.