In need of an extra helping of grace this holiday season
The sudden death of a beloved coworker at the hands of an alleged drunk driver is a terrible reminder that the holiday season is not happy and merry for everyone.
The accident that claimed the life of my friend also took a mother of three. As happens so often in these tragedies, the offending driver survived the ordeal. The ripple effect of mourning and pain is ongoing.
My mind continues to struggle with the idea that William is dead. The idea of going to work and not seeing him weighs heavily on my heart. I cannot even fathom the depth of pain his family feels during this week of Thanksgiving, a tradition built around family gatherings.
I attempt to pull myself out of despair by reminding myself to be thankful for the time we had together. But, it was cut short. Being thankful for past things with no hope of future gratitude is too much to bear. I am most thankful for an amazing community of coworkers with whom I can walk through the grief process, as well as my friends and family who have surrounded me with prayers and encouraging words.
Holidays tend to be tough enough to get through when everything falls within the status quo; they become emotional quicksand when sorrow and anxiety are thrown into the mix. It is not fair to assume everyone will walk around with a “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Merry Christmas” on their lips. We need to create room for grace and mercy for those who are hurting or feeling stuck.
The first time I wanted to call off the holiday season was when I was in college and the first Gulf War broke out. Several of my cousins found themselves on active duty with Operation Desert Storm. It was surreal knowing the boys with whom I had grown up were now men on the edge of battle.
I wore a homemade yellow wristband and wrote all their names on it. I added names as I gained pen-pals from various companies. I put together gift boxes of random stuff that I thought would be fun or helpful. I stopped going to most of my classes. I kept up with my journalism classes because I felt safe with my writer buddies. My grade point average fell, but I didn’t care. I had a hard time feeling anything at all.
In an attempt to feel something, I wrote a column about cancelling the holidays. The commercialization of the season overwhelmed me, and I was pretty sure Jesus would understand if I didn’t join in the celebration of consumerism while my family members were in harm’s way.
Even now as you read this, there are hundreds of thousands of service men and women deployed around the world in the name of U.S. interests. Some may be in stationed in friendly locations, while others may be in hostile zones, but all of them will be on the heart of a loved one who dearly misses them.
Last year, I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a Sacramento hospital as my dad battled numerous blood clots in his lungs. Again, I was blessed with support from amazing family and friends, but I wasn’t feeling the traditional Christmas spirit. I wasn’t rude, but I wasn’t freely passing out season’s greetings to strangers on the street.
This year is my first holiday season without my grandma, and I’m anticipating shedding tears over her absence. I look forward to the time when recalling baking cookies and cinnamon rolls brings more smiles than tears, but I don’t think that will be this year.
So, if I’m a bit slow with the “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” please don’t take it personally, as my heart has a lot to process this year. And like so many others, this season I’m not asking for much more than some understanding and grace.