Now that we are well into the new year and have transitioned out of the holiday season, I keep thinking about this past December. As school started back up and we all got back into our routines, the question kept popping up in conversations: “Did you have a good Christmas?” Our answer was a pretty straight-forward (and some what Grinch-y sounding), “Not really. It was kind of terrible!”
I’ve shared some posts in the past about my mother-in-law’s battle with Alzheimer’s. She was living in a care facility for over 6 years and early in December, Hospice came in and informed the family that her health was failing. So, from that point on, through most of the month, my wife visited with her mom almost every day. Her brothers who live out-of-state came in for a few days and had an opportunity to spend time with her, with each other and to make plans for her services. Hospice was keeping her comfortable and a Critical Care Nurse was in the room around the clock. Nana made it through one more Christmas, but then passed away on December 27. Her visitation took place on the 29th and she was laid to rest on the 30th.
In the midst of all that, our youngest (six month old) was sick for a few days and we had guys in and out of house repairing the floor in our laundry room, installing a new furnace and putting in new flooring throughout our first floor.
So, all those things kind of took the fun out of the holidays for us this year. We still enjoyed celebrating Christmas with family who came in and with the extended family we have gained through adoption. But, we didn’t get to do some of the holiday things we had planned. The Christmas tree didn’t get put up til about one week before Christmas and our annual New Years Eve celebration with friends didn’t happen.
You probably know the feeling – you approach a certain season of the year (holidays, vacation, a significant celebration, etc.) and have an idea of how you want things to go. You picture them in your mind and then the reality doesn’t match up with what you were thinking. That was kind of Christmas for us.
As I look back at it, there a few things I personally took away from our not so happy holiday season.
The Power of Hope. While we knew that my mother-in-law’s days on this earth were coming to an end, we also knew this wasn’t the end. Because of her faith in Jesus, we have something to which we can look forward. That message really came out at her funeral and it was a great reminder of the hope we can have in Jesus.
I loved this quote from Louie Giglio I was able to share at the funeral: “Perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is to live as if this world is all there is, when God’s promise is for so much more. So make the most of every moment while you’re here. If you see something wrong, seek to fix it, but as you do, know that Jesus is preparing something brand new (and exponentially better) for those who have put their hope in Him. Live like you are headed to forever. Endure like you believe this world will fade, but Jesus will remain.”
Phyllis lived like this world will fade, but Jesus will remain.
The Strength of Family and Friends. I was able to watch my wife sit and talk with her two brothers and her dad. I listened as they shared memories about their mom and laugh and cry together. I saw them hug each other and just support each other through a time of saying goodbye.
I also saw the stream of people who came to the visitation, who attended the funeral, who sent cards, who sent texts, who left Facebook messages, who prepared meals and who called just to check in.
You know in your mind that those relationships are important and needed, but you really come to understand it on a deeper level when you are the recipient of that love and care and concern.
The Beauty and Brevity of Life. My mother-in-law lived to be almost 80 years old. Many people would consider that old or a full-life. I really only knew her in the last season of her life when she became my mother-in-law in 2010. But hearing and reading stories about her, I came to appreciate how she enjoyed life. Life is beautiful for sure.
There were a few times as we sat in her room that I was feeding our six month old son. There, in the same room sitting about 10 feet apart, were two of my family who were at opposite ends of the spectrum of life. One was just beginning his life; the other was nearing the end of hers.
I thought about all the life she experienced as a daughter, a sister, a student, a wife, a mom, a nurse, a friend. I thought about what was still in store for our son and all that he had yet to experience, to learn, to discover, to know.
Life is both beautiful and brief.
The Comfort in Memories. I shared at the funeral that I learned a lot about my mother-in-law through the memories of my wife. As we went through this season, my wife would share things her mom liked, recipes she would make, things she liked to do, places she liked to go, food she liked to eat, music she liked to hear and so much more.
While I’m sad my wife doesn’t have her mother present with her anymore, I’m grateful she has those memories.
So, it wasn’t a very happy holiday season for us, but there were some good things about it. In the midst of sadness, we received comfort. Even while shedding tears, I heard the joy of laughter.
While it’s not a season we want to repeat, we know that the hope we have makes all the difference.