‘Tis the season to be jolly . . . or so they say, although I’m pretty sure there are an abundance of unjolly people currently struggling through the holidays. For some of us—or maybe even a lot of us—that struggle is very real for a whole host of reasons, and those reasons often make it hard to be jolly or even semi-happy right now.
If I were to begin listing all the reasons the season has lost a bit of its shine this year, loss would be right up there at the top, and I’m not sure anyone would argue that point. We’ve lost a lot of our freedom to go and do as we please. We’ve lost the ability to safely celebrate many of the traditions that have been created in years past—and goodness knows, this is the season of traditions. And for so many people, someone they love has been lost, and their ability to publicly acknowledge and honor those lives as they are accustomed to doing has been set aside in the name of protecting others. It is difficult to engage in the Southern traditions that memorialize the dead when the living are so vulnerable.
But despite all these negative situations/events/circumstances, you still see the Christmas lights twinkling through the windows when you venture out. You still find the wreaths on the doors and the candles in the windows and a host of Christmas creatures scattered about the yards. And, despite the fact that funeral homes tend to be places of mourning focused on loss, you’ll find those same twinkling lights shining through our windows. You’ll find those same wreaths on our doors. Right off hand, I can’t think of any Christmas creatures scattered about, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there on the grounds of one of our buildings.
So why do we do that? Why do we celebrate the season in such a festive manner when most of the people walking through our doors probably couldn’t care less? They’re overwhelmed with the loss and the planning and the realization that life has changed forever and there will be no going back to things as they once were.
Because in the darkest times of life there must always be a glimmer of hope.
That hope comes in so many forms and is often unrecognizable when we first encounter it. It can be found in the comforting words of a friend who willingly listens to our pain. It can be found in the silent, starry night sky if we take the time to gaze quietly upon it, just as it can be found in the solitude of the woods or the rushing of the river. It lives in the hugs of our children and grandchildren, in their phone calls and Facetimes. And it lives in the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree when we sit and take in its beauty. Each of those is filled with promise. Each of those can momentarily lighten the burdens under which we labor by reminding us there are better days ahead.
You see, in every one of those moments and so many more, there abides peace, and with that peace travels hope. Hope that the darkness will not linger. Hope that tomorrow will be a little better, a little brighter. Hope. Pure and simple. Hope.
For those who are struggling this season, whether it’s from the confines of COVID or the devastation of personal loss, there is hope. It may not seem possible now, but if you listen closely you can hear it whispering softly.
This darkness will not last forever.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.