Sensations more painful

A tree entwined with headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, April 2012

A tree entwined with headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, April 2012

“There are few sensations more painful, than, in the midst of deep grief, to know that the season which we have always associated with mirth and rejoicing is at hand.”
Sarah Josepha Hale

This week, a dear friend of ours lost her close and steadfast friend of over 37 years, after a courageous battle with illness.  In the midst of our deep gratitude and joy at Jeff’s improved prognosis, we grieve with our friend in her time of bereavement.  Probably almost all of us know someone who is struggling with grief and sorrow at this time of year, when it may seem to them that everyone else is celebrating life.

In researching the quote above, I found it interesting that the woman most associated with creating a national holiday of Thanksgiving has also reminded us that there are many who face lonely and painful times at Christmas.  Something about the holiday sharpens the sense of loss we feel.  I doubt that I will ever forget the difficult and painful times I have known on Christmas Eves in years past, including the evening in 2010 when we learned that our beloved friend had a brain tumor.

As we observe our holiday celebrations, let’s be especially mindful of those who are enduring sorrow, grief and suffering.  Perhaps one gift you can give this season is a brief but heartfelt note to someone who is struggling.  Perhaps you can make a phone call, visit or similar gesture to show them they are not forgotten and alone.

The comfort we have felt from the caring words of friends here and elsewhere offered us solace that we hope will be there for others who need it.  If you know someone who is struggling and would appreciate a handwritten card, even from someone they do not know, you are welcome to send me their name and address (I will edit it out of the comments) and I will be happy to write to them.

Thanks for sharing our sorrows as well as our joys over the past  year.  For those who are in the midst of sadness in this season, our hearts are with you, and we pray that you will find peace and consolation.

One year ago today

Every year I dream

30 Comments

  1. raynard

    Julia thank you for reminding me about what Christmas isn’t.I still remember back in 2007 when we took our trip to Arlington. Yes I did cry( where was Oprah with that tissue box lol.Just baked two cakes last night keeping my word hoping it brightens someone’s day.Does anyone still uses feather dusters?And yes I go it blamed again for throwing something away it might of been too close to the trash. (A OCD moment lol) be blessed you añd your family

    • Hi Rayard, I use those little Swiffer dusters and similar, which are basically feather dusters made with artificial disposable feathers. I even have a long one to reach the corner of ceilings etc. but never seem to get around to using it. I seem to have this illusion that if I buy enough cleaning products they will one day get tired of sitting around in the closets and cabinets, and stage a takeover. Hasn’t happened yet, though, as anyone who’s been to my home lately can attest. I don’t need a dry erase board when every shelf in my home can be used for leaving notes in the dust!

  2. I’m sorry for your friend’s loss. Beautiful post xo

    • Thank you Misifusa, I talked with her this morning and she is doing OK. She is to speak at the funeral, and has prepared some lovely thoughts.

  3. Michael

    I think I mentioned I lost my brother in law a couple of months ago. He slipped away in his sleep and was thought to be in good health at the time. So it is also kind of a blue Christmas for us. He never made it to the Social security milestone.
    I came across this quote from OBD “Jesus is an oasis of grace in a sea of despair.”
    I guess a good song for Blue Christmas is Joni Mitchell’s “River.” I think it is about a bad breakup over Christmas, but I am not positive. ” It’s comin up Christmas- they’re cutting down the trees.I wish I had a river to skate away on.”

    • Mike, thanks for that quote and also the song. I like Joni Mitchell but was not familiar with that one. I am so sorry about your brother’s passing – I know we feel such losses repeatedly for a long time, and especially at holidays. “Oasis” is a very good description of faith for many of us. We return parched again and again, and though the respite may be brief before our next stint in the desert, it’s life-saving and always sublime. Thanks for being with us for well over a year now!

  4. Roy

    Sorry to hear about your friend’s loss.
    You’re right. The festivals sharpen the sense of loss. This time we are not celebrating Christmas as this is our first one without Papa. I have not celebrated Christmas with my parents after my marriage. Still it is painful to think this he is not there to help my sister with our humble decorations.
    On 15th my uncle passed away leaving behind his only daughter. She lost her mother (my mom’s elder sister) while she was a little girl. She is unmarried and I fear she will be all alone for the rest of her life, that too far away from all her relatives.
    So nice of you to offer to write to the struggling. Let your words bring joy to someone.

    • Hi Bindu, thanks for your kind thoughts. I know you are still feeling deep sorrow from the loss of your Papa. I dread the time when I will be going through the same thing. I also am sorry to hear of the loss of your uncle, especially as it will affect his only daughter. I share your concern for bereaved loved ones who live far from family support. One feels so helpless at times, longing to be there for them but separated by the miles. At times when I have felt burdened by the many demands of having a family, I have reflected that the life of an unmarried person, while more free in many ways, has burdens of its own. We all need each other regardless of our individual circumstances. Thanks for being here and sharing your life with us! Even with the different circumstances for this year, I hope you are able to find a unique peace and consolation this season.

  5. Dear Aunt, according to the US Postal Service website, the last day to mail packages by Priority Mail for delivery before Christmas Day is tomorrow. The last day to mail cards by First Class Mail in time is today. I was up very late last night wrapping and packaging the last of our gifts to send across the country by Priority Mail, because I had gotten those days reversed in my mind. We didn’t really send out cards this year, so I wasn’t concerned as much about the First Class Mail deadline… until I read your post this morning. I don’t always read your posts on the day they appear – I often read back over many days all at once. This morning, though, something made me click open the email of today’s writing from my phone while I was still lying in bed. I am so glad I did. You reminded me that I had intended to send a card to the family of a dear friend of ours – a wife, and mother of two young boys – who was killed in a car accident in March of this year. This will be their first Christmas without her. Hardly a day has gone by in the past few weeks that I haven’t thought about Alicia and her family and their sorrow at this time of expected joy, but yesterday they somehow slipped my mind. If it had not been for your post this morning I’d have missed the deadline to send the card. Thank you for the timely reminder.
    Rejoicing with you that you all are home and praying for you all as always…

    • Thank you Loolamay, I too am so glad to know that you got my message in time to send a card to your friends. I cannot imagine the pain her family must be feeling right now. When one suffers a lengthy illness, there is time for some degree of preparation (however impossible it may be to TRULY prepare) but the shock of a sudden accidental death would bring a different kind of trauma altogether. I know your card will be appreciated whenever it arrives. Speaking of mailing deadlines, I had fully intended to get you an ornament by now, but believe it or not, today is the first day I will open our ornaments and begin to decorate our tree (yesterday was the day for stringing the lights and mailing things). SO, I hope it will not be too disappointing that the ornament I promised will not arrive in time for Christmas. Since it is intended to be mostly for the years to come, perhaps that’s not too awful. I wish for all of you a wonderful Christmas! Love to you all.

      • Rene

        I will be decorating the tree today, although your ornament is already on it!

        • Thank you Rene, I think it’s cool that we will both be decorating our trees today! 🙂

  6. Michael

    Another thing we can do is visit someone in a nursing home. Many there, as you know, have few visitors, if any. When I visit at the hospital and see there is no contact person on the board, it makes me thankful for friends and family. My mom’s last years were in a nursing home-so I know a little about that. Some of her family had a hard time visiting her as they did not want to, “see her like that.” She had Parkinson’s and other issues. Sometimes it is hard to visit, but I know it makes a difference.

    • Michael, a wonderful thought that I wish I had remembered to mention. I am so grateful that when I was a child, our Sunday School classes visited the nursing homes regularly, all year round. We would take them little treats at holidays, sing with them, talk with them and get to know them. Some of them were real characters. Some were barely still in this world. All seemed to appreciate seeing us whenever we came. Some of the nursing homes we visited were very nice; some were old and had the look of poverty. All taught us lessons we could not have learned in any other way.

      I look now at the churches that seem to feel an obligation to entertain young people with their programs, desperately trying to hold their interest. I have always felt that they are badly off track, barking up the wrong tree, so to speak. We will never be better than the world at entertaining people. What we must offer is something different, a type of joy that is not found in staging ever more elaborate shows. I think if Christians and other people of faith were willing to give the things only they can give, by living out their teachings instead of arguing over them or hitting people with them, the world might view religion much differently.

      In any case, thanks for your comment; it brings back memories of happy hours spent with childhood friends, putting together valentine treats or Easter bags or Christmas cards, knowing there were people who would be clearly happy to have them. I think children love to feel needed, and rarely do, it seems. I think those folks in the nursing home gave me more self-esteem than any fashion or award could have done.

  7. So very true!
    Elephant

    • Thank you Elephant! I hope you are having a lovely holiday season. We look forward to seeing our grandson for only the third time since he was born in July. Before we know it he will be old enough to introduce to the delightful world you show us on your blog. I appreciate your visits here!

      • Nice that you will see your grandson now! Christmas is much more fun with little kids around! Have a wonderful visit!
        Elephant

        • Thank you! 🙂

  8. Carolyn

    Julia, so sorry about your friends loss. This time of the year is so hard when you have lost someone. This Monday will be 14 years since my mom died and this past Wed., 18th, was 2 years since Terry’s brother lost his battle with brain cancer. Those days are hard, but we will always have sweet memories of our love ones. Our prayers are with you and your friends family at this sad time. Our God will give comfort to all. I enjoyed your blog today. Glad that Jeff is home and hope he is healing. Take care and love and hugs to all.

    • Thank you Carolyn, at such times we miss our loved ones so. It is good to have the consolation of sweet memories that are so woven into the holidays for most of us. We continue to rejoice that you and Jeff are here, surviving and thriving! Love to you all.

  9. Michael

    That’s a great point, “that we will never be better than the world at entertaining.” Unfortunately, this is also true of my home denomination.
    Perhaps that is a Southern tradition, but I really can’t recall other churches Sunday school classes visiting nursing homes.

    • I don’t know how widespread it was in the South, but I do know that there are similar efforts still underway in some places. During our Texas and California years, both our sons were part of a church-affiliated organization called LTC (leadership training for Christ) which had a convention every year in Dallas or San Jose. It was sort of like 4H, with lots of different activities (speaking, singing, drama, puppets, Bible bowl teams, etc.) and one of the activities was called Service Challenge, which basically meant doing a huge number of community service hours of various types including visiting shut-ins or elderly, working at homeless shelters, etc. The best thing about it was the way the young people bonded with each other while working on these projects. There’s something about working together on a common goal that really builds camaraderie even among kids who don’t start out with much in common. Basically most of them were in it because their parents pushed them into it, but once there, they did tend to have a great deal of fun with it. We have lots of happy memories of their years in this group.

  10. Beverley

    Hello Julia & friends … I’ve been meaning to comment for several days as I have rejoiced with you at having Jeff home. So many comments from others show such love and compassion; it’s beautiful to witness the outpouring of love. Yes, Christmas can be a very difficult time for those who lose loved ones or are experiencing some very lonely emotional tragedies. The visiting of Senior’s Nursing homes is truly something to not forget. My 99-yr young father-in-law was eager to receive the care of a nursing home in 2010 as he was “finally” becoming fearful of his falls (no broken bones, Praise God)! Unfortunately, several months later his wife passed away. This was so totally unexpected but the Lord has been gracious. My husband was not prepared for some of “the lives” he would see played out as we visited Dad. There are many forgotten Seniors and “shut-ins”. Unfortunately, there will be a flurry of school children and church choirs that come to sing or visit during the holidays but alas, very little in between. I have tried my best to befriend as many of the elderly as possible. Even if they don’t remember me from day-to-day, well, hey, we just introduce ourselves again!
    Thank you Julia for writing this message and may you and your family be strengthened with our precious Saviour’s love. I pray for all with weeping hearts. That they will find comfort in the love of Christ and know that others care for them as well.

    • Beverley, thank you for your beautiful message here. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we would all “adopt” a senior who felt forgotten? As I imagine many others might relate, I confess have not been as diligent about this as I could have been. I can think of elderly people (living alone in their own homes, with or without support, as well as those in nursing homes) who would appreciate a visit whenever we came by. Over time it’s all too easy to get distracted, and the time slips away. One of my grandmothers passed the final years of her long, mostly active life in a nursing home, and she was comforted to the very end by a steadfast and close friendship with her young minister, who visited her frequently. At her funeral, he spoke eloquently about their many visits and what it had meant to him. I was so thankful for this conscientious young preacher and what he gave my Granny, who lived far away from many of her relatives. I hope we might re-think some of our practices at our churches and extend these times of compassion for the entire year, not just at holidays. I honestly believe we all, and especially our children and teens, would gain much more than whatever we give.

  11. Sheila

    Julia, a loss at this time of year seems to “go against the grain” if you will. Not now, not with the joy, gaiety,and happiness of the season! I tend to think of those that have lost a loved one during the year and know first holidays are difficult. Memories see us through….. But it’s never, ever the same. Love to you and your family, Sheila

    • Thank you, Sheila – it is so comforting to have the sympathy and understanding we can offer each other at this time of year, when joy and celebration are mixed with a keen awareness of all that has changed. Love to you and Bill too, and all your family! I hope your holiday is wonderful!

      • Sheila

        Thank you, my sweet friend! Merry Christmas….. 🙂 Sheila

        • Merry Christmas to you too! 🙂

  12. Loss is hard at any time but most certainly when everyone else is celebrating. I wonder too if the pressure to make an enjoyable holiday for family later, becomes an big stress while suffering through an anniversary of their passing. I’m sure sorry to hear your news Julia. I also have a dear friend struggling with this right now. But I also think this kind of pain runs so deep, one might just have to work thru it. My dad past away 14 years ago now and the anniversary is still very hard. I’m so happy you still can spend time with your own dad, they seem to always know what to do and say 😀

    • Thank you Kelly, I think you are right. There are some things that only get better with time, and never completely stop hurting. I hope to get to see my Mama and Daddy soon; I have only seen them for less than 24 hours since March 2012, since I had to cancel three different trips to see them after Jeff got sick. I know my parents can’t stay on this earth forever but I dread so much the thought of losing them. They have been such a steadfast support and comfort this past year and I have thanked God many times they were here to help us through this. My friend is struggling with her loss but I think she is doing well, all things considered. I am sorry you still have sorrow on the anniversary of losing your Dad, but what a wonderful gift to have such love to remember. Thanks for being here!

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