One of the things I love about Christmas is the lights. I love the colors, the twinkle and the beams that bounce off the shiny ornaments. As a little girl I would sit in the dark living room with only the tree lit. The bulbs were big and bright. Tinsel covered the tree. Bulbs hung along side hand-made ornaments my sister and I had made with our mom or in school. My mother and father worked at the General Electric Lamp Plant in St. Louis. Mom had brought some clear light bulbs home without the innards. Only the bulb and the metal end. She put us at the table and showed us how to apply glue and glitter to the inside of the bulb. Then we took a small picture she had cut out of us into the shape of an oval and we taped a string to the back side of it. My mother put the picture and string inside the bulb and attached it to the metal part which she glued onto the end of the bulb. Viola! A beautiful light bulb ornament. I still have it today and it hangs on my tree.
When I left home to go into the Air Force, my mother began to send me an ornament every year. Some were bought and some were hand-made. All were a memorial to the year being given. I kept every one of them and have hung them on my tree each year. I even began making some of my own to commemorate some major events of the year. But I still continue to add them to mark a specific family event. For example this year my son and his wife gave birth to a baby girl, Ann Marie. My daughter got married and my third child, though now a man, graduated from high school and then 6 months later graduated Army Basic Training. All very proud moments for me. So I plan to hang three plus one for my fathers’ passing in remembrance.
This is the 1st Christmas without him. It is surreal to come home and find him not here. I am staying in his house. The house he and his wife bought several years ago. A beautiful Victorian style home. It is in the center of the town off the main street. I sense him all around us. The ache in my heart of missing him but knowing he is celebrating this season in heaven with my sister. What a thought, worshiping Jesus on His birthday in Heaven. Wow!
It is more difficult for his wife, my step-mom. She sees him everywhere she turns. He loved her so much and she knew it. He took care of her and she misses that. Being taken care of and loved by a man who had searched for love his whole life. The coolest part of their relationship was that not only did they both find a special love, he found Christ through her love. I can not begin to tell you how special that is to me. An answer to a 20 year prayer. In her grief she is comforted by the fact she knows where he is but the ache is more real in the absence of his touch and his daily concern for her. Grief does not have a calendar or clock. It knows no boundaries. It takes its time in the humdrum days of loneliness! I pray she finds healing in moving forward and focus on Christ who fills the emptiness left by my dad. I am glad I was here to share these days with her. I believe it brought some ease to both of our hearts.
I did go to the cemetery to put flowers on my sister’s grave and my fathers’. He has no headstone yet but the grass has grown over him. The small blades of grass resemble moss, revealing to those who come to visit a fresh grave. There is always a breeze there when I visit. A warm, hot breeze on the day of his funeral. But today very cold and brisk, making my eyes sting with tears. Memories are a funny thing. Standing there I remembered I was the last to leave his casket waiting to go down into the ground. I almost could not leave him. I knew it was just his body, not him. Something in me wanted to stay. I guess it was the finality of it all. I think that is why 1st anniversaries after a loved one passing on is so difficult. It is the final remembrance of all the years you spent before. Everything reminds you of what they did the last time you opened presents or sang Happy Birthday. The end of their living life. The beginning of recalling every last word spoken.
I have noticed that there are memories that do not really come alive until your loved one is gone. Is that what ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ means? The memories are more vivid and emotional. I guess it is the heart and the mind that bring them together much like a photo album with dates and places written underneath the pictures. A slide show perhaps. I like to make memorial videos of people and their moments. I have made several for myself, friends and family of special events we have shared. I load all the pictures, put them in sequential order and then add music. I try to add music that speaks to their life, their memory. It is amazing how it all comes together when it is completed. I watch them over and over. They make me smile.
I did that for my father. I enjoyed looking at all his earlier pictures. When it was finished and I watched it all the way through I realized how adventurous he was. Motorcycles, boats and hobbies he had throughout the years. He smiled a lot when he held his children and grandchildren. That was very cool to see. The end was harder to watch because the pictures were more recent. Even so he ended well.
I am wondering what the memory of this Christmas will be in a few months. It was full of what is important. Family. Loving one another unconditionally and cherishing each precious moment the Lord allows us to share with those who make our lives full and rich. Never mind the junk because really the junk is the reason Christ came. To take away the junk and replace it with gems. His precious gift of a redeemed and restored life! And that is what I remember today of my dad. A gift from God. Redeemed, restored and at peace! Thank you Lord for filling our minds with memories and hearts with love!!! Thank you for turning heartache into joy when we turn our hearts toward you!
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Grace to you