A Holiday Thought and Blessing 2020
I have been kicking thoughts around in my head over and over the past few days. I am trying to write a short story every Christmas for my grandkids. However this year a story is not coming to me. Sleepless nights and feverish dreams have not let me rest much. I know I am not the only one feeling the grief, angst and pain from the lack of normality in our lives and the missing traditions we are being forced to avoid during this holiday season. Let’s face it, the world has not had a holiday season so seemingly bleak since the times of war and depression. I have been reading and watching all of you. I have been seeing the grief that so many of you are feeling in so many ways. I know some of you are hungry. I also know some of you have no idea where your next mortgage payment is going to come from or how those bills are going to get paid. I have seen you and I have heard you.
This year has been hard on us here in many ways as well. I do not think I have ever been so homesick before in my life. However, during this difficult time in the world, I must admit and continually remind myself that we are much better situated than many others dealing with this crisis in the world. I know what my blessings are and I am grateful for them every single day. But I wanted you to know there were not always holiday years where I could have told you I was blessed. Not blessed in the traditional ways people think of blessings. There were some very hard years as a single parent when I was broke and I was so tired from working two jobs at times. Many times I would leave at 7am and not return until after 11pm. I was working every single day from early in the morning until very late at night. There were those rough years when I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because I sincerely did not know how I was going provide Christmas for my three children. Seemed to me there was so much more pressure on me being a single parent in order to complete everything for a perpetual holiday that did not wait for me. There were times when it all seemed impossible and insurmountable.
I remember one year in particular when I had just started a new job in December. An awful job where I was taking and selling portraits for church directories. It was a total commission job with expenses that I was required to supply up front which compounded problems upon problems. One of those really no-win types of situations. Well, after working every single day and putting out money for an entire month, my first checks kept getting forgotten by payroll department or lost in a never arriving Fed-Ex delivery. Week after week and day after day I got closer to Christmas and each day there was no check for me to care for my family. It was really one of the worst financial times I can remember in my life. Each night I would have the same dream over and over again. I would dream of Christmas morning and seeing the faces of my children crying when they realized there was not going to be no presents and Santa Claus did not come. It was seriously enough to cause a near complete breakdown. Now understand, I was lucky because I did have a great safety net. My parents helped me whenever they could and it is hard to ask for help with Christmas gifts when you are already asking help for food, utilities and gas to get back and forth to work due to a nightmare situation out of your control. I think that was the worst part of it all. I had absolutely no control of what was happening to us. It was out of my hands completely. The only thing I could possibly do was to ride it out and pray.
Well Christmas came closer and closer. Finally on December 23 I was paid what I was due. I cannot tell the relief I felt with that check in my hand. However after catching up with bills and food there was not much left to buy presents for my three children. We are talking less than a hundred dollars. I had like twenty-five dollars for each child. I really had no idea how I was going to pull it off. I remember driving around trying to decide where I should go to even try. I knew I had one shot to get it right and very little time. I looked up at a stoplight and I saw a Toys-R-Us sign ahead of me. I pulled into the parking lot with a huge sigh thinking I was not going to be able do much, but I was going to give it a try. To my surprise when I walked into the store they were having a huge pre Christmas clearance sale. I mean a huge sale. Everything in the entire store was on sale at prices of 75% off or more. I made quite the haul with what little money I had to spend. You would have thought I had spent hundreds of dollars. As a matter of fact, that was the year I bought a five-dollar Jurassic dinosaur puppet that I know my son Eli still treasures today. It was truly one of his favorite presents ever. He actually screamed when he opened it on that Christmas morning.
The kids would tell you it was one of the best holidays they ever had and I would have to tell you it was nothing short of a miracle. I am not sure to this day they know the difficulty of that year. I believed in letting kids be kids and they rarely knew when the times were not good. You know, I never talk about the charity I give but I will tell you that there was not a year that went by after that I did not help another family in some way or another. I know what it is like to struggle and I know how sometimes the simplest thing can be the miracle you are looking for. I really do believe prayers were answered that year.
This year the holidays are hard for a whole different set of reasons. It seems our family has never been further apart on a holiday than it is right now. We are doing our best to make the most of it, but we all know it is not the same. I see my friends who have lost so many loved ones this year and it hard to watch them go through the pain of their first Christmas without someone they love. I understand that pain and I have gone through it a few times throughout my life. There is absolutely nothing you can say to them to make them feel any better. You can offer a hug and let them you understand, but in truth there is nothing you can do to make that loss feel any less. I hate the pressure of the holidays because I think it puts people through so much stress and angst that in some ways it is completely unnecessary. If you think about it, for most people this year the holidays are not something anyone really feels like celebrating. So what do you do?
You roll with it. It really boils down to being as simple as that. You go with the flow. You do your best. You let the day come and go. You understand that even though that one day might not be exactly the way you want it, with Gods grace, the next day will come and you can move on and put it behind you. You get through it as painlessly and without guilt as possible.
We are planning a simple day here at home with some food and some movies. Nothing spectacular. Sure, I would give anything to be with my grandson on his first Christmas and my granddaughters who have expressed over and over that they wish their grandfathers were there with them. It’s hard because I watch my parents struggle with the need to be close to the kids while also dealing with the reality of a virus that could take their life if they were to catch it.
This year is a hard one. I know. I have to tell being a heart patient I am grateful for every single holiday I am given. The morbid inevitable thought is always in the back of your mind that this just might be my last living Christmas. I know how morbid that sounds, but even in its morbidity it speaks a whole lot of truth for each of us. Let’s face it, I have spent more than a few “last” Christmases with family members and friends. Any single one of us could be gone in a heartbeat. This could be any of our last holiday seasons on this ear. I think that is one of the reasons we place such an importance on these special days like these.
Special days are special because they are not plentiful. They are rare occasions that remind us the importance of togetherness. It is celebration of our shared human condition. In the nostalgia of these moments we see our history and remember the good and the bad things which life has to offer. I just shared a very hard holiday memory with you I had experienced. The point is, whether I want to look on it favorable or unfavorable does not matter because it is a memory and that memory is sewn into the fabric of the history of my life and the history and lives of my family. Am I making sense? I am telling you that you have a choice here on how you are going to let this holiday define your history.
What happens over the next few days will be part of who you are and how you will be remembered. The holidays and birthdays are always the things that we remember. The mundane average days are the ones usually forgotten. Think about what you did on the first Tuesday in November? I am waiting. Now think what you did last Christmas? See the point? Sure, it is not going to be perfect. It is going to be far from perfect. It is going to be hard and I promise you there are going to be profoundly sad moments that are going to hit way too close to home. The point is you to need to prepare yourself for a holiday that is going to be like none other most of us have ever experienced. The important thing to remember the day will come and go but it will remain as a memory that will have effects and made memories. Eli still has that five-dollar dinosaur puppet from when he was a child, one of his most valuable possessions. It is a memory which I gave him from that holiday years ago when I had so very little to give. It does not take a whole lot to make a memory. Holiday memories are made from simple things. Memories do not require we spend a ton of cash on extravagance. Most of the times the best memories come from just being present in the moment. The moment will take on a life of its own. The holidays are not about things they are about moments. Just be present for those moments and the memories they will make.
This year will pass and next year will be different and hopefully somewhat back to normal. Next year will be a time for gatherings, church services, parties and huge celebrations. God willing, I will be here to celebrate alongside with the rest of the world. Next year we will have something really special celebrate.
I hope this helps some of you who are struggling. I know I am having a hard time with it all. My wish for you this year is some semblance of peace even if it is just for a brief moment or two. I hope you will come out of this dark time with one memory you will hold dear to your heart, much like the year when I saw a little boy scream in joy when he opened a five-dollar dinosaur puppet.
God bless you and your families now and in the coming year.