Sitting among the wrapping paper and admid the squeals from children as they open their gifts, I am swept away to Christmas' Past. Uncomfortable and forcing the tears back, images of cancer surgeries, incisions and hospital smells, $5 to spend on each child at the dollar store, living out of suitcases with no home of our own . . . it rubs raw a healing wound. It makes the joy of the moment difficult to feel - makes the smile on my face drop as do my eyes. Ugh. Why God? Why remind me so brutally of the Great Sadness on this day of so much giving, so much joy, so much hope?
I take five of the children to the cemetery to place poinsettas on Paul's grave. The children huddle together as they tromp through the snow. Hayley laughs as her feet sink and her exposed ankles freeze in the icy flakes. Landon hides in Ben's coat and we can no longer see his face - we can only hear the giggles from inside the down jacket. And the sun is shining.
This is Christmas Present.
The children that Paul and I blended together - all laughing together so connected - they love each other. I scan the group - the five of them so silly together. What an odd turn to find us all here this Christmas morning together . . . we were undone by the Great Sadness. We are closer because of it.
God, thank you. Thank you for giving me Christmas Present. Last Christmas I had images of Christmas Future - which would be today. I had images of me alone - wearing black - sitting in the snow before a headstone sobbing. I had no hope of sweetness. I had images of the children - separate and suffering. Desperate. Depressed. I had no fantasies of laughter or celebration. I did not see this beautiful wrapping paper, a fire in the fireplace, or the children still so connected to each other. God you are so good to take care of me when the hurt and loss has been so great. Oh how your love exceeds what I deserve and yet that is your holy character completely.
The pointsettas placed now, our chatty group walks back to the cars and we head off to the rest of our Christmas day . . . more delicious food, more games, more sillyness. And I look to heaven knowing that Paul is spending his first Christmas with Jesus Himself. Oh Paul. What is your Christmas Present like? Do you cry thinking about Christmas' Past? Or are you so whole now, so alive, and so at peace that you see everything as sweetness? We miss you, but we live better because you were here. We love you, but we love better because we all loved you. We mourn your leaving us but rejoice in your first Christmas surrounded by angels and eating at table of the King.
I kick off the snow on my boots and am thankful. My nightmares of Christmas Future did not happen. The Great Sadness is still there but the hope of Christmas lights the darkest hours.
I rejoice this Christmas. And what beautiful images I have of many Christmas' to come.
Thank you God for healing even the ghosts of Christmas' Past. Just shows how good you truly are.