The Christmas Spirit

When the afternoon bell rang last Friday at school, I was out of work for an entire, heavenly week! WOOOOO HOOOOOO!!!! Chris headed to New York for a bachelor party this pas weekend, so I loaded the kids and Big Molly up and we headed to my mom’s for a weekend-long visit. When I found myself sitting in her sunroom on Saturday morning, drinking my morning coffee (which is really my morning Diet Coke because I don’t drink coffee…), I knew I had made the right choice.

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We spent the day baking cookies with the kids and just generally taking it easy.

On Sunday, we decorated Mom’s Christmas tree. For some reason, all of us are in the Christmas spirit earlier this year than usual. Mom and I think it’s because we spent the past two years sort of dreading the holidays without my dad. It just didn’t feel joyful without him, and the dread of waking up on Christmas morning without him hung heavily on all our hearts.

But this year, it feels a little different. We are looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’ve been listening to Christmas music for WEEKS already! I think we are making up for those two years of sadness.

It doesn’t mean that it isn’t still sad without my dad at the holidays. Christmas would be infinitely happier with him harassing my mom about all her shopping, playing with the grandkids while we decorated Christmas cookies, or making a huge mess in the kitchen while he prepared his famous dressing. But this year, we can think about those things and be merry.

On Saturday afternoon, we hung ornaments on Mom’s tree that told a lifetime of stories. Ornaments from places our family had traveled when I was growing up, from trips she and my dad had taken together, from the years when my sister and I were born, when new houses were bought, from 30 years of wedding anniversaries, from when engagements and weddings took place, when grandbabies arrived (or, as my mom calls them, the “baby grands”). There were popsicle angels and felt reindeer. A giant, scary horse head my sister made that year she learned to sew. Sugared fruit that had long-ago lost its sparkle. And this year, even a new addition to the Christmas tree…

I think it’s the first ornament my mom has added since Dad’s passing, and how appropriate that it should mark the next big milestone in our family’s history. My sister’s baby girl, Faith, who will join us in January (unless she, too, is anxious for the holidays and decides to make her appearance sooner!). Such a poignant reminder that life goes on.

But here’s the thing that the third holiday season without my dad has taught me. No, life doesn’t go on as it was before. But it doesn’t go on with a veil of grief wrapped around it, either. Life goes on to wonderful, spectacular things. BIG THINGS. Experiences and memories and adventures continue to happen in our lives, and with each ornament added to our Christmas tree, with each story we tell as we hang in just the right place on just the right branch, we take my dad with us.

It has taken us three years, but I think my family is learning how to do that. And it feels good in my heart. It feels joyful in my soul. I miss him dearly. So very, very much that if I stop and think about it for too terribly long, that familiar weight of loss is just almost too heavy to bear. But that feeling of loss can be healed with a funny memory of him or in hearing someone tell a story about him. Or even by standing next to my mom’s Christmas tree, remembering a lifetime of happy memories and looking forward to the next happy memories to come.

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7 thoughts on “The Christmas Spirit

  1. beth

    Thank you Katie! I so needed to hear this. Tomorrow is one year from my dad’s passing and like last year, I am once again dreading thanksgiving and christmas

  2. JenniferLO

    Oh Katie! I just love reading your posts. You do such a splendid job of putting into words what so many people struggle to convey. The Lord has certainly given you a gift and I so thankful I stumbled on your blog so many years ago and could be blessed through your work and writing. Keep on dear imaginary-friend, Keep On!

  3. Suzanne

    Thank you Katie for sharing with us. I’m so happy to hear that you guys are going all out celebrating this year. Your kids are at such a fun age for celebrating the holidays 🙂

  4. Katy

    Looooong time reader (since the pre-Bean days!), and recent Instagram commenter–I completely agree that life is never the same after you lose a parent, but it is still wonderful, often in surprising but no less blessed ways. My mom passed away suddenly in September 2010, and I still remember the sick feeling of that first holiday season without her. She was the light and soul of our Christmas, and such an anchor for our faith–we were completely and literally bereft, cut loose and lost. But the next year, my husband had a brand-new baby girl (born almost exactly a year after my mom died), and a rental home (our old one burned down when I was six months pregnant–yes, really!). The next year, we were in our newly rebuilt home, and expecting again…last year we had two blonde baby girls playing under the tree, and a precious nephew to spoil…and this year, we are mere weeks away from baby #3 arriving, our son. All of this brings with it painful, bittersweet emotions–my mom was so looking forward to being a grandma!!!!!–but at the same time, each new blessing brings with it the reminder that she is still here, in the traditions we share, in the home videos we show our daughters, the ornaments we put on the tree, and the Christmas hymns we sing as we get ready for Jesus’s birthday. I also comfort myself with the thought that once she got up to heaven, she grabbed the Big Guy by the arm and said, “Let’s send them JOY!” I know she’s been a part of every one of these milestones, and is watching us all with a huge grin on her face.

    Also–you’ve been hinting at big news–I’ve been praying for you for awhile, I hope your wildest dream has come true. 🙂 You have a voice and a gift and God’s got huge plans for you!

  5. Jody

    Again with the tears! My Dad died in March and this will be my first, and like many of the ‘firsts’ in the last few months, it will be really hard. But reading this has given me a bit of hope that the old holidays I used to love will smooth out in future years and will become joyous again.

  6. I needed to hear this! This will be the second year without my father-in-law, but the holidays seem to be easier for us this year as well.

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