Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blue Christmas Again

"It feels entirely impossible that I will live the rest of my life without my brother's physical presence. It feels like a horrible dream and a cruel joke." 

These are the words I read this morning from a precious friend on facebook. Another bereaved mother is inviting her community to a mass in her daughter's honor on Christmas Eve. Our new friends in Joplin, MO are suffering through their first terrible Christmas after the crushing tornado that killed so many. A precious Maui friend is experiencing her first lonely Christmas with her husband in Heaven, as many local Navy SEAL families here are facing their first tough Christmas morning without daddy.

My thoughts turn hourly toward many friends who are suffering loss this Christmas,  and one very precious family that is anticipating loss as they bravely wend their way through another Christmas with a terminal cancer prognosis. I worry about them all, and pray for them, and ask God to pour mercy on them. I have met so many broken-hearted people now, and know there is a whole, almost invisible, substrata of people for whom the Christmas holiday is truly excruciating. It's a fount of once sweet memories that has now become a painful reminder of deep, unrecoverable loss. Doug Coupland said, "Christmas makes everything twice as sad." There are no quick cures under the tree for these hurting people.

This is our fourth Christmas without Joey, and we are in an edgy, restless, unmanageable funk. You might think we would be used to it, but we are not. After 28 Christmases with our vibrant son, one who lit up our lives, we are not going to "get over" his absence anytime soon. It still cuts deeply and we are in a bit of a wilderness trying to be part of the holidays with our friends and church, but mostly longing to simply wander into a cave for a week or two and cry. It creates an unwieldy divide inside the soul.

Scripture calls death an enemy. The Bible  never glosses over death, or tries to minimize it in any way. It is the thief of everything that is good in this life--love, companionship, hopes and dreams--and the Bible tells the truth about it. But it also gives us hope that death will not be the end of the story. I cling to these words of Jesus:

John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

And these from the Apostle Paul:

1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

It's true that there is no quick cure for grief and loss, and it won't be fixed today or tomorrow. It does require a patient wait for the things God has prepared for us. But they are coming and that is our solid hope. I believe the reassurances about the world to come--a place where there will be no more death, sorrow, sickness or separation. My anchor is there. I lifted it out of the miry pit of this world, and sunk it into the solid rock of Heaven when my son left. My hope is there.
For now, we get through the days as we can. No small task, but we find our ways. My friend in CO bakes and quilts, my friends in OH preach, and my friend in WA writes and collects blankets for the children's hospital. We give as we can and no longer expect so much from this world. We weep with those who weep. We don't ride the wave of false joy that the television specials and commercials promote. We get in and out of stores as fast as we can. We don't relate to Jolly St. Nick or jolly anything else. Jolly is a thing of the past.
Rather, we endure like a runner in a marathon, for the trophy at the end of the race. We keep our "eyes on the prize" and ignore the distractions on the sidelines. We anticipate the party that will be had then--a true celebration, with true comfort and true joy. And best of all, the truth that makes it possible to survive this sorrowful world, we will all be together at the finish line.

Though it isn't easy, that, when all is stripped away, is somehow turning out to be enough.

“They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies.” ~ William Penn


Gberger said...

Amen to all that you wrote, my dear, beautiful friend. May God also pour His mercy, love, comfort and joy into your heart, and into everything which your life touches. I wish I could welcome you to my "cave," and offer you the quiet hospitality that would allow you to sit, reflect or just cry. Sending love to you across the miles. xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

Thank you got writing this Karen- spoke to my heart. -Alana Z.

Jeri said...

Very well said, Karen. My heart aches for you!
One of my sister's bosses took his own life last week. So very sad for their family and all those who knew him. Really hit home for her too with our brother. So much sadness. Still we hope for and look forward to our eternal home.
Love you!

Susan said...

Thank you for this

Anonymous said...

Thank you- this made me feel that in some corner of the world my losses are neither dismissed or go unheard and unseen .
Sometimes the world can be a painful place to be

London UK

Anonymous said...

I have an ache in my stomach as I relate to the very words you wrote. Thank you for always always being there for me. I pray for safe travels for you and your family. Seems like the smile I have on when I go out and greet everyone with a Merry Christmas is just painted on. 2012 will be a welcome sight, at least give us a reprieve. Love You Much Sharon

Lynda said...

Thank you for this post. I have sent the link to two friends who are suffering the loss of a sister this year.

God bless you for bringing comfort and understanding to others. May God's peace, love, joy and hope bring comfort to you.

Mary Potts said...

I'm here via Robin's blog. Thank you for these beautiful words. I, too, am a mother trying to get through another Christmas without my beloved daughter, Erin.

garyw said...

Safe Harbor

Though storms would come
with fiercest gale
The harbor’s light
was burning still
Beyond the break
the tempest stood
But well within
the calm prevailed
And though the
surging waters spoke
Of endless peril and
withered hope
The harbor’s light would
wane the fear
And lead me to...

Safe Harbor

I have found that during the deepest bluest Christmases God has intervened with a kind and soft word from a friend, an invitation amongst dear friends and a piercing connection that He knows what I'm going through. He never leaves me or forsakes me, not once!
May you Joe and family feel His divine intervention of love this Christmas Season.
This scripture brings me great comfort every Christmas, blue or not!

Luke 2

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Much love to you and your family this Christmas.

Jennifer Stumpf said...

Peace be with you and your family this Christmas morning...