For five Christmases, the package arrived shortly after Thanksgiving.
The first year, it came as a complete surprise. A little stocking ornament for my newborn baby girl—her name on the front and “Great Grandpa and Grandma R” on the back. Before she was born, I was unaware my grandparents sent Christmas ornaments to all their great-grandchild every year.
The next year another little stocking ornament arrived. This time Grandma’s name was missing from the back, and the tears fell as I hung the ornament on our tree and wished I could talk to her on the phone one more time.
The third year, four angel ornaments came. Grandpa thoughtfully included our two foster daughters who were with us that Christmas along with our now two biological children. It meant so much to the older girl that someone she had never met would include her in a special family tradition that she kept her angel hanging on her wall until she was reunited with her parents.
The fourth year, two ornaments—this time a Santa and a snowman—arrived in the brown bubble wrap envelop. My children’s names carefully written on the front and “From Great Grandpa Don” on the back.
Last year, the envelope contained three ornaments as we had added a new baby to our family. Three snowmen, all similar yet different each with a child’s name on the front and “From Great Grandpa Don R. on the back.
This year we are carrying out our usual traditions. We tromped through the local forest and cut down our Christmas tree. We positioned it by our window and wrapped it in little white lights. The star was placed at the top. The handmade ornaments were clustered near the bottom while the red and gold balls were placed in the relative safety of the high branches.
As I pulled a Ziplock baggie with the ornaments from Grandpa wrapped in paper towels out of the tote, the tears fell. You see, this year, the envelope isn’t coming. Grandpa is singing with the angels in heaven instead of sending ornaments to my little ones as we celebrate here on earth.
It’s in moments like these—the everyday life, the little traditions we didn’t give much thought to before, the phone calls we can’t make anymore—in moments like these, the memories stir from the recesses of our minds, fill our eyes, and trickle down our faces.
This year, those special ornaments from the last five years are hung where I can see them as I cook every meal for my family and all of those extra Christmas goodies. And I have three ornaments—one to give each child with a name on the front, and “From Mom” on the back. Sometimes you don’t need a new tradition but rather a tweaked tradition.
I’m sure there are others of you reading this grieving a loved one this Christmas. Even as we celebrate, as we continue on with traditions from years past, as we start new traditions, we do so with a great awareness of the ones missing from our celebrations.
To those of you missing someone this year, I hope you will:
- Let the tears fall. (They are symbols of love.)
- Take it slow. (You don’t have to hustle and bustle to attend every event. Maybe you need some time for quiet reflection.)
- Get into God’s Word. (He is the one who comforts the broken-hearted.)
- Continue the old traditions. (They are a part of the legacy left behind by your loved one.)
- Create a new tradition. (Whether something big and exciting or something like lighting a candle in your loved one’s memory, a new tradition can be a balm to a grieving heart.)
- Cherish the moments and create memories with family and friends. (You never know when your last Christmas with them will be.)
It is my prayer for each of you that you have a blessed Christmas in spite of the ache in your hearts, that you will treasure the memories of the past, that you will look with hope toward the future, and most of all, that you will know the love of the Savior who came so many years ago as a baby born in a lowly stable in the town of Bethlehem.