Christmas with a Heavy Heart

It’s tough to go through the Christmas holidays with a heavy heart, especially when you’ve lost someone dear.  
We received word that a family friend passed away, someone I’ve known since I was 11 years old.  We used to live next door to his family, he went to college with my brother,  I’ve watched his little brother and sister grow up from birth, and am close friends with another sister.  Over the years, our families just became intertwined.
Granted, time has put some distance between us, as we’ve grown and had families and lives of our own.  Yet there is always a bond, especially around Christmas.  When we lived next door to each other, we started the tradition of spending Christmas Eve at their house.  Even though we no longer live next door, every Christmas we come home,  we have Christmas Eve with our friends. That included last year.
While we’re reeling from losing a member of this precious family, it hits home a little harder during the Christmas season.  I’m staying home for Christmas this year, but part of me is yearning to be in New Mexico to be with our friends. Yes, I will see them this weekend, when I take this unplanned  journey back home for the memorial service, but I won’t be staying for Christmas Eve.
I know I’m not the only struggling through the grieving process right now. Another dear friend of mine lost her father about a month ago. Getting through this first holiday without him has to be difficult for her.
And I can’t help but remember our Christmas from 18 years ago.  We lost my (step) nephew in a car accident, and nearly lost his mother.  My nephew was 7 years old, and it was 4 days before Christmas. His funeral was Christmas Eve.  I don’t know how my brother got through that time. 
As I think through all of this, I’m learning that while it’s difficult to celebrate Christmas with a heavy heart, I ask what our deceased loved ones would want us to do. I believe they’d want us to move forward, carry on, and continue our Christmas traditions.
I think my other nephew, who was 6 at the time of his brother’s passing, said it best on that awful Christmas when we lost his brother.  He said that he thought our nephew was having the best Christmas ever, because he was celebrating with Jesus!
Out of the mouths of babes…
While we miss our family and friends who aren’t with us right now, are feel their absence deeply, I know they are celebrating with Jesus. 
We must look upon Christmas not just as something we have to get through this year. We need to remember that  Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birth.  And in my mind that means: Christmas is hope.  
Personally, as I grieve the loss of my old friend, and recall 37 years of memories with his family, I know I must cling to the hope that Jesus’ birth brings. I will cling to that tightly as I hug my friend’s sister when I see her in a few days. 
We must have that hope to carry us through…and celebrate Jesus’ life, and the lives of those we love, more than ever.

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