Here we are in this “Year of Firsts” getting ready to experience Christmas without Melanie. Have I ever had a Christmas without Melanie? Unfortunately, yes. We experienced several without her but this one will be entirely different. During those times when we could not celebrate together we would always speak by phone and visit on a day before the actual holiday. I would still be able to see her, hear her voice, hug her deeply and she would let me pray over her most times we were together. Since she has run ahead to heaven there will be an obvious and distinct difference between those past Christmases without her, and the one I am about to experience without my only girl.
I’m continuing to learn how deeply grief can affect your life. I took the last month off from blogging so I could concentrate on my own self-care. It was a much-needed time to focus on myself – my physical, spiritual and emotional well-being desperately needed attention. The heaviness and weight of losing a loved one creates stress and anxiety that often lead to actual physical illness. It is debilitating and if left untreated can often lead to serious consequences. Friends, it’s so important to take care of ourselves while we are walking this grief journey as we cannot be there for our other family members and loved ones if we don’t take care of ourselves. Just like the flight attendant says, “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first before putting it on anyone else.”
Ever since I was a little girl Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. Maybe that’s also because it’s my birthday as well. 😊 My mom always made Christmas very special and was certain to keep my birthday celebration separate from our Christmas celebration. I love everything about Christmas – the lights, the tree, the music, the special recipes shared, getting together with family and friends and I’ll admit I am one of those who love watching Hallmark Christmas movies!! But do you know what has always been my favorite thing? Deep in my heart I have always loved that I shared the same birthday as my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the real reason for this season.
Last year at this time our home was so full of joy, laughter, and excitement. It was a special Christmas because it was the first time we would all be together as a family in many years. I spent weeks planning the special meals to be cooked, including favorite family recipes from my mom that have been passed down for many generations. Everyone’s room was decorated, gifts were wrapped and stockings with special treats were filled. I was excited about having Melanie participate in our annual gingerbread house contest later in the day and laughed when Cameron said he just couldn’t decide whose team he wanted to be on! So many memories, a lot of laughter and even a few joyful tears.
This year it will only be the 3 of us. Like many other families it’s not safe for our son and daughter-in-love to travel due to Covid. This will be only the second Christmas in our oldest son’s lifetime when we have not been together. Sigh. It’s the right thing to do, however, so we can have many more Christmases throughout our lifetime. Instead, we will celebrate together the 2020 way – via Zoom! My son suggested we reschedule our in-person Christmas for June 25th so that’s what we will look forward to! I’ve already shed my share of tears and sadness over not being able to be together, piled on top of Melanie being in heaven and not here with us. I also decided I will have no expectations of myself or plan how the day will go. What I do know is I will do the best I can.
There is no doubt in my mind that this Christmas will be a bittersweet, emotionally challenging day. Yet, as I think about my girl I also have no doubt that Melanie will be celebrating the birth of Christ unlike anything our minds or heart can fathom. I know she is healed and living in a peace that passes my own understanding. As I learn to focus on her happiness and not my own loss, God continues to comfort my heart in a way that only He can. I will be forever thankful for the beautiful memories from our last Christmas together, and for the many others before then. Melanie was a girl who loved Christmas, just like her Momma. She would be the one to count all the gifts making sure there was an even number divided up between her and her brother. She would also vigorously shake each one trying to guess what was inside! The funny thing was most of the time she was always correct! I was amazed by her ability to guess, until one year I found out she opened all the gifts and wrapped them back up again! Yes, she was a bit mischievous for sure!
In honor of my girl and how much she loved this holiday, I am choosing to honor her memory through gifting to other women who face the same challenges that she did. There are many organizations out there who help support those in recovery along with those who are still struggling with the disease of addiction. I found one group who helps homeless women by filling backpacks with much needed items for those living on the street. Each backpack has a special patch sewn on to the front of it with the name of your loved one. They also require you to write a letter about your loved one which is included inside each backpack. Very special!!
Melanie had a big heart and was always giving of the little she had. I look forward to blessing some other young ladies like Melanie this Christmas and in that way it will be just like loving on my own girl. If you’re feeling sad today and missing someone perhaps you may want to consider doing something in honor of your loved one. It does make your heart feel good when you are the hands and feet of Jesus.