The Christmas season always brings forth feelings of deep nostalgia for me. It’s amazing how deeply my early Christmas seasons have left such a profound imprint on my life.
This time of year was always so very complex in my youth. On one hand, we struggled mightily. And on the other, there was a deep sense of peace and joy. I think of my dear mother most every day of my life, but it always hits differently around the holidays.
A Festive Determination
My mother would pick up extra shifts and work tirelessly to try to make the season more festive in our home. But, most importantly, I was always very aware of the true reason for the season, celebrating the birth of Jesus, who came into this world to live, inspire, bring hope and, ultimately, face persecution so that we shall have a chance at eternity. She made that crystal clear.
Sing Me a Sweet Melody
Joy filled our little frame house. I’d sit by my mothers side each night on her piano bench. Beautiful melodies reverberated through her fingers, to the piano keys, and into the air, accompanied by her majestic voice. I’d sing my little heart out. In these days of limited technology, we’d record cassette tapes of us singing Christmas carols and hymns to send to my grandparents who we rarely got to see for Christmas, as they were hundreds of miles away.
The rhythm of this time of year never got old. Ever. I can see it as clear today as then. I can feel it. Perhaps it is these joyous feelings and memories that help to fill the gap of her loss. Her song continues in my soul.
Set Your Pride Aside
We never had much, by way of earthly possessions. And I was well aware that Santa wouldn’t have enough bandwidth to bring me the things he brought some of the other kids. But I was always grateful for what did show up. I knew that Santa had done all he could and that was fine with me.
My mother was a very strong-willed person. One of the strongest people I’ve ever known. Despite her resilience, she held her pride in check — never letting it keep her from accepting help when our family needed it most. This taught me an invaluable lesson: true strength doesn’t lie in having the “I got this” mindset, but in the courage to acknowledge when support is really needed, humbly asking, and graciously accepting.
Always Lend a Helping Hand
Invariably there would come a time where my mom would find someone else who seemed to be in a more precarious position than we were. As a kid I didn’t get it and, like many young kids, I was worried solely about what I needed or wanted, not necessarily the needs of others. It’s not that I didn’t care. I was actually quite a caring young boy. But in the midst of all we faced it was very hard to see beyond. My mother always made sure I did.
She taught me that even when you don’t have much for yourself, much less to offer others, there’s always a way to extend a helping hand. Her heart was rooted in the belief that, regardless of our circumstances, there was always an opportunity to help others. She reminded me, often, that there is always someone else who always has less, and by sharing what we can, we contribute to brightening their day, much like so many had brightened ours. Through her example, I learned that the true essence of giving lies not in the magnitude of the offering, but in the intention and love behind it. And as we open our hearts to be mindful of others we create ripples that go far beyond anything we could ever imagine.
Joyful, Joyful Amidst Struggle
My mother always showed me how to find joy amid the struggles of life. In times of adversity, she emphasized the importance of having a spirit of gratitude, reminding me that even in the storms, there is always something to be thankful for. She firmly believed that challenges presented opportunities for personal growth and the discovery of one’s true strength. I can’t tell you the number of times I looked at her and thought “how do you always find a silver lining?” But that’s just what she did, always moving forward with a deep appreciation for the lessons embedded in the chaos. Her lessons and spirit have been a guiding force in my life, leading me to face challenges with resilience and gratitude, echoing her profound wisdom – to find joy even in the midst of trials, growing stronger through them, and to be grateful for the enduring lessons brought forth by them.
My Wish For You
For those who may be experiencing yet another holiday without a dear loved one – or perhaps this is your first season – I extend my love and prayers to you. These moments are, indeed, trying. It is my deepest hope and prayer that, as you navigate the feelings of pain, grief, and loss, you can find your way back to joy. That you can reach back to those beautiful memories and lessons learned. That you find peace in the midst of it all.
You deserve it. And I know, without question, those who have gone before you are smiling down right now, nodding in agreement. Sending peace, comfort, love, light, and strength your way in this season and all the days of your life.