It’s December 28th–three days left in the year! The Christmas tree is still up. The candles are still in the windows. Even with the fireplace lit, there has been a bit of a chill in the air this season.
I miss Mom!
Except for two years when I was overseas in the Army, I’ve always spent some part of Christmas with Mom. No matter where I lived, my family and I either went home, or she came to us. When pastoral duties interfered with Christmas Day, I visited her for New Years.
The season has felt strangely silent this year. I feel old.
I’ve known other times of loss, but Christmas didn’t feel this way on those occasions. Dad died in 1999–on New Year’s Day. We had watched him die slowly for years, receding into an Alzheimer’s world where we couldn’t go. When he died I felt relief. I didn’t feel old.
Of course, there have been other losses–my grandparents, my brother, Paul, and my sister, Merle. There have also been aunts, uncles, cousins…and close friends. Paul died of pneumonia in 1989. Sis died from complications surrounding a diabetic seizure in 2002. I didn’t feel old when they died.
Aging has been a mysterious journey for me. I have looked into the mirror and found my father’s face staring back at me many times, but I never felt old. I’ve been blessed with good health and energy. I’ve explored my creativity through art and writing. I’ve always seen the glass as “half-full.” This year it seems to be “half-empty!”
Mom had an intrinsic vitality that captured and inspired others, including me. She was a woman of enduring faith and courage. She took challenges in stride as opportunities. She suffered, but she also persevered, and you never felt that her suffering had defined her parameters.
She strode through life in deep companionship with her Lord. When she made mistakes, she owned them. No excuses. No blaming. When she stumbled, she picked herself up. She always had time to connect with you, rejoice in your successes, and feel your pain. I always wanted to be like her in those things.
In recent years when her resources were small, Mom found ways to give gifts that became her trademark at Christmas. For me, it was always a small package of handkerchiefs. For someone else it might be one of her “treasures” from a shelf, or perhaps a book. She would hand me my handkerchiefs with a twinkle in her eye. “I always know what a man needs,” she would say, then laugh. What she really gave us were pieces of herself.
So here we are. No great family gathering this year. A few phone calls. Mostly quiet remembering. Before me the portal of a challenging year begins to swing open. I look to God with gratitude for all he has given me, all he has taken, and all he has yet to reveal. I thank him for Mom.
I miss her. I miss calling to check in with her. I miss occasional notes from her that would show up in the mailbox. And yet…and yet I sense her presence still with us in the fiber of our daily lives.
And I feel old…as I should after seventy-nine Christmases past! It’s about time!
Thank you, Lord, for each day you grant. Help me to use each one well. Amen.