Negotiating Firsts – A Message About Holidays

He has made everything beautiful in it’s time….
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NKJV)
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Negotiating first holidays, anniversaries and birthdays as well as other milestone events can be one of the most difficult aspects of your grief season. It is probably because the more of these special family times that pass, the more real your loss becomes.
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My son left a muddy pair of tennis shoes sitting right outside the front door on the porch the day before his accident. Those shoes remained on the porch until we moved the next summer. They were then relocated – in their muddy glory to the back porch of our new home. Those shoes became important and if the suggestion was made that we should remove them or get rid of them I would – yes, FLIP OUT!

About a year after his death, those shoes were cleaned up and deposited in our garage. They still have a home in the garage. I see them each time the garage door is raised. I cannot bear to part with those shoes. Maybe someday I will, but not today.

This is not the only traumatic issue we have had. The first Christmas we had after Justin’s death was very, very traumatic for our entire family. You see – Justin was the one who would grumble and complain all day as he watched me lug the huge box containing our enormous Christmas tree out of the closet. He would mill around while I carefully and painstakingly assembled each branch and unfurled it so it appeared to be a “believable” fake tree for the holiday season. He would wait and watch all day while I went through this awful tradition – torturing myself and killing my back to make the house a beautiful holiday creation!

About bedtime, I would be tired, cranky and quite frankly a little smelly. He would come to my rescue – “Sit down, Mom. I’ll do the rest.” And so began our annual holiday tradition.

When the holidays began to approach after his death my husband seemed very indifferent while both my girls had very distinct and opposite opinions about how the decorations should be handled. The eldest wanted the Christmas tree but refused to help put it up. The younger wanted no decorations at all declaring the entire ordeal to be too painful even to think about.

I wanted a Christmas tree. It is my favorite time of year and my heart’s desire was to do something special but not particularly taxing for my family at Christmas. My solution? Purchase a new, improved – and much skinnier and shorter – pre-lit tree on sale at Garden Ridge. I saw the ad on television, I checked the bank balance and set out one cool December night while my family was at church to buy and decorate the most beautiful Christmas tree we would ever see.

Yeah right! While at Garden Ridge I found several ornaments that I could incorporate and of course there was the new angel for the top – since the old one simply would not do. The show – stopper in my mind, was the new, fancy Christmas stockings that I purchased special for this “new beginning” we were about to have. I went home unloaded the goods and set about decorating our house. By the time my family arrived back home I was done… I was sitting in a recliner amid a room full of emptied boxes and bags looking with great pride at my holiday creation. If I could have patted myself on the back I would have.

The girls came in took one look at the tree and stockings and lost their minds… I mean seriously. The eldest burst into tears and muttered in dismay, “Where are our stockings?”

The younger who had not wanted any tree at all, took one look at the new tree and said, “I HATE IT! You’ve changed everything.” She then ran up the stairs and slammed her bedroom door.

I stood up to defend myself and sat back down dumbfounded by their response. I looked at the tree, my weeping child and my confused husband. I declared, matter-of-factly, “Well, I like it and it’s staying. And that’s all I care about right now.”

The entire holiday was a bust. I traumatized my entire family and we were all a mess. We were supposed to be. Firsts are hard, they take a lot out of you and they are not very rewarding, but they pave the way for better days so just hang in there and hang onto God – He has a plan even when we don’t.

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” Love, God.
(Jeremiah 29:11 MSG – emphasis mine)

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