In late summer, with a record heat index, I went to the store to do some shopping.
As I pushed my cart, I came upon aisles of Christmas decorations already displayed even before the pumpkins had arrived.
I looked away. I had for these past years purposed to live in the moment, savor each day, not always straining to the next thing, rushing past the blessings that were wrapped in that moment.
But the thing about grief is, whether fresh and stinging or scarred over, it can grip your emotions in unexpected places. And in those moments as I viewed all the glitter , and trinkets, even knowing that was not even close to the true meaning of Christmas, an old tune rang out in my thoughts: another Christmas without our son Aaron.
And that broken place in my heart that can never be mended rose to the surface of my best intentions. Me, standing there with my cart, and feeling the old familiar pang of sorrow.
I had already wrestled my way through this maze of grief, and found joy, peace, and comfort. And I knew also it was much more than just thinking positively.
I had already learned that Christmas did not have to be identified so much with my loss as with the Savior who had come. Yet, there was an empty place at our table, and yes it would always hurt. And even when I am reminded of this in unexpected ways, I can do now what God is teaching me.
Don’t run away from the hurt, the loss, the sorrow. Embrace it. Don’t be defeated by your pain. This is not just pretending that it never happened, or it will ever go away. It won’t. It doesn’t mean drowning my grief, but it does mean I won’t drown myself in it either. This death of ones loved one is fact, forever changing me but not defining me.
As I stood there that day, I did feel great loss. It did hurt. I will miss Aaron this Christmas, and every Christmas. I accept that. I don’t deny that. But I can continue to celebrate with a joyful heart, and I can receive from God blessings of Great Joy, and by God’s Grace, bless others along the way.