Anyone who has lost someone they love knows the numbing-down effect that death brings. Life becomes in some ways a pantomime, a surreal going-through-the-motions of reality.
Especially, this is true at the holiday seasons. Three months after our son’s death, I was on my way to have breakfast with a close friend. I began crying all the way there, and even as I sat down at the restaurant, I lost it. For me — a person who always avoided crying in public — the veneer was being stripped away, raw and revealing.
Everything in that establishment was festive and happy. This is the time of year that I always enjoyed, decorating the house, cooking, special music. Now I felt I really didn’t want to do these things. I felt such loss, and would that hollow feeling inside of me never go away?
I remember sharing with our youngest son Jeremy, that I didn’t think I would do a tree this year. We usually drove to a tree farm and cut one down as a special excursion for fun.
His words to me were, “Mom, Christmas is still Christmas.”
Was he right? Would Christmas, and I mean the true meaning of it, help me in some way to embrace this grief, and move forward?
The numbness I felt most of the time was a cocoon of protection for me, at least the first year anyway. At one of those intense times shortly before the holiday, the time came that we had to choose a gravestone for our son’s grave.
I recorded this day in my journal, so here is exactly what I wrote:
December 2, 2011
We purchased a gravestone for Aaron today. As we sat there, it was like purchasing a car. It was outside of myself. “ Do we want a shiny finish? Or a matte? Do we want this design, or the other? Do we want Gothic lettering, or Roman?
What type of granite? What wording do we want engraved on the stone?
I remember that day so detached from who I was. I am not one who views death as an end, but only a temporary separation. But the calm I felt then was actually comforting, and not as I had envisioned.
Why was this so? Because at that moment at the cemetery, God’s Grace was being poured out to me, enabling me to make difficult decisions.
As I look back at that first Thanksgiving and Christmas after Aaron’s passing, I see now more clearly how I was carried along by unseen Arms. The pain was not diminished, or even lightened, but I was able to see that Christmas had not changed, or become less. In fact, I was able to celebrate it in a much deeper and more meaningful way than ever before.
I felt drawn more than ever, to the God who chose to become human, and dwell among us. Who entered into humanity, and suffered grief.
For me, Christmas had always been Christ, and that would never change. Not if death had snatched away a part of my heart, and left a hole. I know that the Grace of God can fill that emptiness, while never obscuring the life of our son.
That first season wasn’t easy, and the seasons since still aren’t. But I can surely declare to any who grieve the loss of a child and wonder how they will survive when all around them are so full of joy: Receive from God the Grace only He can give.