The Ghost Writer....

...... of Christmas Past.
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I know that most of you out there wish this day was just an ordinary day.  Just the 25th day of December, no more, no less.
Actually, I know that most of you wish that you could've fallen asleep around December 22nd or so and stayed asleep until January 2nd.  Or February 15th.
I get that.
All too well.

In honor of all of us, I decided to go through my blog and give you posts of my past Christmases. Christmases that have occurred in my "after".
Maybe you'll relate to one or two of them.
Maybe you won't.

But here they are, for whatever they're worth.
I hope they help.

Year One:
12/23/08
"Let's Be Honest ......"

...... not everyone likes Christmas.
 
    Let me clarify.  It's not Christmas itself.  I mean, I'm thankful for Christ's birth.  I'm great with setting aside a day to be extra thankful for that and to remember that without this birth my life would be very black indeed.  I'm grateful that this birth gives me the gift of hope --- and the knowledge that I will be with Jim again.
 
     But I have oh-so-recently arrived on the "other side".  The "outside looking in" side.  And the people on the outside do not like Christmas.  Not the event, but the season.  Or more specifically, the way Americans celebrate the season .... starting before Halloween.  
     I've always been aware of the 'outside people', but since we're being truthful here, I didn't give them a whole lot of thought.  Of course we've donated to charities, we've worked for the homeless, we've bought gifts for families who had none, etc. etc. etc.  But once I'd done that, my attention shifted to MY family, MY shopping, MY celebrating, MY plans.  The thought that one day I'd be an 'outside person' never entered my head.  Never.
     Yet here I am.  Looking at the "joy" and the commercials and the shoppers and the commercials and the decorations and the commercials and the people who feel pressured to go out among the millions of crazy people shoppers to get one more gift.  Or maybe two.
And now I see, really see, for the first time, what a mess we make of this holiday holyday.  It's like my eyes had some kind of film over them "before".  The same film that millions of people have over their eyes.  Or is it thousands of people?  Or hundreds?  
     I'm not sure what's worse:  to have had the film and then have it torn away, or to never have had the film in the first place.
     My eyes now see how many there are of us on the outside.  I didn't see them before.  And now I am one of them.  And there are hundreds of them.  Or is it thousands?  Or millions?  There are more than you know.  Many of them clamp those masks on for this time of year, so they're harder to identify.  But I see them.  Most of them anyway. 
    I see the people who have no family.  No one to "celebrate" with.  No one that looks like the people in the commercials.  
     I see people who have "family" but cannot, choose not, should not spend time with people who don't deserve the title of "family".  
    I see people who have nothing -- who feel and see the pressure of "celebrating", but can't afford it.  And then feel worthless because they can't make their family look like the ones in the commercials.
     I see people who have only one thing in their life .... because that one horrible thing has pushed everyone and everything else out of it.  They don't want this thing, but don't know how to free themselves of the demon that it is.
     I see people who are angry.  I see that they were hurt first, and then became angry.  And that anger is their shield of protection to push everyone away.  They don't have anyone to "celebrate" with, but they also don't have anyone close enough to hurt them.
     I see the people like me -- the ones who's hearts are torn apart and hurting.  The ones who's bodies feel so heavy that smiling is exhausting, let alone "celebrating".  The ones who wonder if they'll ever want to "celebrate" again.
     
     But then I remember this holyday.  And what it's supposed to be about.  What it's really about.  
 I know that the film will never grow back over my eyes.  
But I think that's a good thing.
 
And I hope that my heart, though it will always hurt, will hurt a little less.
And I know that's a good thing.

****************************************************************************
Year Two:
December 27, 2009
"It's the Most Wonderful Time ......"


..... of the year.
Or not.
I wonder why we have three such huge holidays slapped right up against each other?  Who was in charge of that?!
I mean, really?  We (read: "outsiders") just get through the whole "being thankful" thing and then, a few weeks later we manage to barely get our head above the crashing waves of Christmas.  But we do.  We tread water and manage to survive the waves as best we can.
And then ..... just when we think the waves may be subsiding ...... the tsunami of New Year's roars in.
For us "outsiders", there is nothing ....... (well, other than that pesky 14th day of February) ..... worse than New Year's Eve.  
And I think that we make the "insiders" very, very uncomfortable.  They don't know what to do with us on those two days ..... so they don't.  
I can't say as I blame them.  
Really.
I envy them.  
I hope they realize how blessed they are.
I hope they don't take for granted how blessed they are.
And I hope they have a wonderful New Year's Eve.
 
And maybe toss a lifesaver out into the waves once in a while.

***************************************************************************
Year Three::
December 22, 2010

"You Should Be Happy ......"
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.... is what someone told me last night.
Actually, the entire sentence was .... "All of your children are home.  You should be happy."
I felt like I had been slapped in the face.
I was on the phone, explaining to this person, through tears, that I was feeling sad.
And that sentence was the response I got.

Most people would probably agree with that statement.
But you who read this blog are not "most people".
Thank God.

My response was to almost yell into the phone, "Don't tell me that!  Don't tell me what I should be feeling!"
There was quiet on the other end.  But no apology.  No attempt at an explanation.
I said, "I AM happy that the kids are home.  But it's very bittersweet.  Yes, we're all together.  But we're not ALL home.  Jim is not here and that makes me sad.  Very sad.  Yes, even after three stinking years it makes me sad."

It's been a difficult week.  I'm content one minute, in tears the next.
I don't remember being this emotional last year, but then I AM a widow and so my memory is not what it once was.
I AM happy to have all of the kids here.  And so very grateful.
But the presence of seven of us is a huge reminder that there are not eight.
Just like the stockings that are hanging over our fireplace.
This is the first year that I did not add Jim's.
It just seems too painful to constantly see it there.
The stockings are such a visible reminder that he is not .... visible.

So yes, maybe in the eyes of some people I should be happy.
I am blessed.  My children are all healthy and they are all home.
I have many loving family members and friends.
I am financially secure.
I should be happy.

And I usually am now.

But this week, this month .... I am sad.
And there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

Except ignore the ignorant, thoughtless words of people who don't know what the hell they're talking about.
Sounds like a plan .....

*********************************************************************************
Year Four:
December 24, 2011
"I Have a Love/Hate Relationship ......"

.... with Christmas Eve.
Actually, I'd love to say that I weigh in heavier on the love side, but I don't think that would be true.
And I hate that I hate some of it.

Every year we go to one of the Christmas Eve services ..... and then we go to dinner with friends.
And every year I sit there and cry through most of the service.

Every year at least one person stops me after the service and says, "Are you ok?"
And every year I say, "No."
Sigh .....

It doesn't get easier.
It just ..... is.

I dread going to church on this night.
But I can't imagine not going on this night.
It's part of Christmas.
It always has been.

Staying home wouldn't do anything ..... it wouldn't make me feel any better.
It would just make one night different .... one night that should probably stay as much the same as possible.

And so .... it does.
I hope one day I will love it again.
At least more than I hate it.

*******************************************************************************
Year Five:
December 22, 2012
"December 22, 2012 ...... A Date That Will Live ......"

...... in my memory.
Forever.

This is the day ...... the very first day in 5 years and 5 days ...... that I have truly, unquestionably and finally ...... felt 100% happy.
Happy without reservations.  Happy without "if only".  Happy without having to add "mostly".

I have all 6 kids under one roof (although only momentarily because Son #2 has to leave shortly and Son #3 just returned home).  And we have two additional friends here, spending Christmas with us.
Nine stockings have been hung by the chimney with care.  Two dogs are frolicking around our family room (and I'm good with that ...... I'll soon have two more here permanently).  The beds are all full, as are two additional air mattresses.
The pantry and the fridges are full.  The games are out and ready to play.  The packages are wrapped (don't get me started) and under the tree ..... almost dwarfing the tree this year.  (The problem with doing all of your shopping on line is that you sometimes lose track of what you've bought .... and who's been ordered what.  I'll have to do a much better job next year).

It's been a very good day.  We didn't go anywhere.  Or at least I didn't.  Daughters #1 and #2 left to get a couple of presents and to go to the airport to pick up Daughter #1's friend tonight.
We've watched great classic movies.  And Harry Potter #3, which I don't consider a classic.  Not for quite a few years.

Son #2 came over after he got off work.  We all had pizza for dinner.  And a little wine. (OK, we ALL didn't have wine ..... 2 of the 9 are too young, much to their chagrin).  And momentarily, as soon as HP3 is over, there is talk of doing something called "Irish Car Bombs", which is a hugely politically incorrect name of some kind of "shot".
But I'm a game girl and willing to hang in there with the young people ...... for at least one of them.
And then praying I'm not upchucking all night long.

Tomorrow we will meet at Son #2's apartment and then go out for lunch.  Then we'll attend a Christmas Eve Service, and then come home for a home cooked meal.  We haven't decided what that will be yet, but most likely, Italian.  And maybe the start of a new tradition.

I.
Am.
Happy.

And so happy that I'm happy.
It's about time.
It's beyond about time.
It's been 5 years.
And 5 days.

Yes, I wish Jim were here.  But he's not.  And I can't do anything about that.  So I will enjoy who I have, while I have them.  And remember him and treasure his love and him ...... in my heart, where he'll always be.
So, in a way, he's here, too.

It feels so great to feel 100% happy.
T.A.N.W.*

Thank you to all of my loved ones, who've waited for this day with me.
Thank you to all of my readers ...... who've rooted for me and for the arrival of this day.
Thank you to all of you who are on this path with me, both ahead and a bit behind.
Don't lose hope.
Ever.

While I know there will still be painful days, and still be tears that come from nowhere, I am still happy.
And that's very, very huge.

************************************************************************************************************
So there you go.  Five Christmases without him.  Today is number 6.  
And I can truthfully tell you, though while I wish with every fiber of my being, that he could be here, it's still going to be a good day.
He would want that.  As I would want that for him and for our children.
Christmas, just as every other day of the year, is not the same.
But that doesn't mean it can't be good ...... again.

It's been a long road.
A very long road.

For all of us.
Please know that today I am thinking about all of you.
And wishing you peace, love and contentment.
They might not come today ...... but they will come.
Please hang in there.  And hang onto Hope.
Because someone is on this road, right behind you, 
thinking, "If he/she can make it that far, so can I."


*T.A.N.W. = There Are No Words

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