I want to begin by expressing my thanks to everyone who shared words of sympathy and support to me and my family in recent days. Your kindness is greatly appreciated. And I also want to thank all those folks who sent me Christmas greetings. Like tasting something sweet after eating something bitter, the taste is all the sweeter for having tasted the bitter. Your holiday cheer was all the more welcome after the stress and sorrow I went through in the days and weeks preceding Christmas.
My dear father in law died on December 14th and was buried on December 17th. My beloved sister in law died on December 18th and was buried on December 22nd. From the time we got word that my father in law had died until his visitation at the funeral home began I created 7 scrapbook pages of him for a memory poster that stood beside his coffin. When my sister in law died, I created 12 scrapbook pages for 2 memory posters that stood beside her coffin. In all that time and during the long hours of visitation and the funerals, I had no Christmas spirit whatsoever. None of us did.
I had exactly one day after the funerals, that being December 23rd, to decide on a menu, buy the groceries, and begin cooking for our Christmas Eve dinner. I scaled back the number of dishes by about a third and still managed to put on a nice holiday dinner. I don't know how my husband and I did it. I know I couldn't have done it without him.
We went to the Children's Mass at 5pm on Christmas Eve. We arrived early, but too late to get a seat inside the church. We couldn't even find a place to stand in the church so we took seats offered to us in the vestibule. We couldn't see into the church and we could only hear a bit of the Mass but it was enough for us on that day. Mary made do when there was no room at the inn. We made do when there was no room in the church.
The children of the parish enacted the nativity during Mass. We didn't get to see it of course but we saw one angry mother pulling King David by the hand out of the church and through the vestibule. We couldn't hear their whole conversation but we caught the part where King David (age 7 ish) said to his mom, "Don't you love me mom? Don't you trust me?" To which his mom replied, "Yes I still love you. And I trusted you right up until you hauled off and slugged the third Wiseman!" I'm sure mom was none to happy with her son but it made all of us smile the first genuine smile our faces had had in weeks ;-)
Christmas Eve dinner with my family was nice. The house had only a Christmas tree and the nativity over the fireplace for decorations this year. But with a few candles lit here and there, some Christmas music playing in the background, and a roaring fire in the fireplace, it still felt cheery if not quite festive. We were all exhausted physically and emotionally. Right up until we sat down to dinner it felt like were just going through the paces. But then, like magic, the spirit of Christmas seemed to enter our hearts. They became a little lighter as we prayed together and gave thanks for all the good things we still have in our lives, especially each other. We enjoyed lots of good food and a glass or two of wine and before we knew it we were all complaining that we'd eaten too much. The dinner conversation was of funny stories and happy memories, complaints about the weather and all the good deals to be had at the shopping malls. We didn't talk of funerals, Alzheimer's Disease, or cancer. The time for that had passed. Christmas had come.
We opened our gifts with the kids after my brother and sister in law left. Everyone got what they'd wanted and more. I still don't know how we pulled it all off. Actually, I do know. I called my kids and asked for their help. One went gift shopping for me and baked and decorated Christmas cookies. The other took care of a good bit of the gift wrapping. My husband was an especially big help at every turn. We went to bed that night with smiles on our faces and the feeling of Christmas in our hearts.
We spent Christmas Day at my mother in law's house with the rest of my husband's family. Anyone looking in the window would never have guessed that we had just buried two family members the previous week. Young children do that for you. They were their usual raucous selves and their joy and excitement were contagious. For a few hours we ate, opened presents, and laughed at the joy of it all. It was so nice to be together without the tears and sorrow. I'm sure we all had our moments when we looked around the dinner table and missed the two faces that should have been there with us but weren't. I know I did. But then one of the kids would say something silly and the grins and giggles would take over. Christmas comes, life goes on.
I debated about whether or not to send out my Christmas cards after Christmas. I went through all the trouble of designing them and having them printed. It seemed a shame to just throw them out. If they didn't have "Christmas 2008" printed on the back I would have saved them for next year but since they did that was not an option. So I spent yesterday writing our annual newsletter and addressing envelopes. I cut the number I sent out in half omitting cards to geographically close friends and family who already knew about the recent deaths in the family.
Today was spent running errands and picking up the last remnants of gift bags and wrapping paper. I'm thinking I'll take the tree down tomorrow. No one is sitting around and enjoying the warm glow of the cheery lights. I think we're all ready to put this holiday to bed and move on.
All in all, the Christmas holiday went better than I expected given what we've been dealing with in the last few weeks. Santa was very good to me. I got the camera I wantedand a cool new netbook. The netbook will come in handy as a back up when my laptop has to go in for service. Oh yes, I finally got my laptop back from the Circuit City service center. Yesterday, December 26th. It took them 4 weeks to repair it this time. :-7
I stopped reading my RSS feeds Dec. 14th so I have quite a bit of catching up to do (over 500 blog posts!). I'm trying to get caught up on my email too. Thanks again to everyone for all your kindness. Your good wishes and thoughtfulness meant a great deal to me in the quite moments when I had a chance to read and appreciate them.