Welcoming December

‘Tis the Season!

December, 2015 will begin tomorrow, and that means Christmas will be here before we blink thrice. It also means that today is November 30, and by some miracle, I made it to the end of NaBloPoMo or NanoPoblano (whichever you prefer), and somehow managed to post something every. single. day! I am grateful that the month is coming to a close; however, now that I know it is possible for me to compose a blog post every day for thirty days straight, I am kind of looking forward to next November, in a sick, twisted sort of way. But, first, I have to successfully navigate my way through another twelve months, December being the most difficult.

Thursday, after Thanksgiving dinner was over and done, I returned home and pulled out my Christmas decorations. Since I no longer have a fireplace with its accompanying mantle, I laid the greenery, pine cones, and nativity on the only other space available – the buffet server in my living room. Previously, the server held photos of the special women in my life – my mother, my aunt, my girls, and my sister.

My Sister, circa 2007
Left: My Aunt in her younger years; Right: My Sister, circa 2007

At first, I tried weaving the garland and lights between the photo frames, but it soon became clear that was not going to work. As my apartment lacks another suitable space to hold a group of framed pictures, I put them away to make room for December, but there was one photo I could not part with – not this month.

December holds different meanings for me now than it used to. While it is still a time of celebration, family gatherings, giving and receiving presents, and the time we celebrate Jesus’ birth, the nineteenth day of December, 2015 marks the two-year anniversary of my sister’s death. Rather than miss her less, this year I miss her more than ever.

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that my sister left me before I got around to leaving my marriage. The problem with that is that no one wanted me to get out of that mess more than she did. Countless times since July 23 (the day I walked out), I have thought about calling her to talk about the separation. There are questions I want to ask and thoughts I need to share. Both the joys and difficulties of ending a marriage were well-known to my sister – hers had not been an easy divorce; but, as with everything else she did, she managed it with dignity and grace. I have never needed her particular strengths and gifts more than I do now.

Since I refused to put her photo away, I did a little rearranging instead – something I had been meaning to do for a while, but, until that moment, was unsure exactly how to pull off. This little niche is the result. It is not very ‘Christmasy’, but that’s ok – it has become my favorite spot:

 

Call me crazy, but I still talk to my sister as if she were here, and sometimes I can even feel her near me.

I tell her that I am so sorry for not walking away while she was here to see it. I tell her that I need her help with everything – from decorating to filing divorce papers to having a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes, out of sheer loneliness for someone who really knows me, I scold her for leaving me too soon.

For me, December is no longer just the Christmas season. It has become a mixed bag of happy family times and shared sorrows, twinkling lights and the deep dark of grief all wrapped up into one giant package. Last year I wondered if the timing of my sister’s death would cast a pall over arguably the most celebrated season of the year. Now I realize the appropriateness of it: Winter approaches, and with it, the reminder that everything dies. Yet in December we celebrate with evergreen – the symbol of our hope in the constancy of life.

Decorating for Christmas is not a tradition I have consistently kept. For a few years, I eschewed the celebration altogether (except for gift-giving – to me, the true spirit of the season); but, now? Now December has become my month for remembering, and the decorations I have hold special meaning.

  1. The shiny ornaments remind me of all the beautiful decorations my sister created over the years we grew up together at home.
  2. The mini-nativity fills me with peace as I remember that God knows and understands the grief that comes with being human.
  3. The miniature white lights remind me that darkness, no matter how great, can never overcome the light.
A Bit of Holiday Cheer
A Bit of Holiday Cheer

For me, December embodies both life and death, joy and grief, my family here, and my family lost. I used to pine for my childhood when Christmas offered the once-a-year magic of reindeer and a man in red delivering presents; now I celebrate the deeper, poignant magics of love and life and eternity. Who knew that a gift taken would impact me more than a gift received ever could? And yet, my sister was a gift given to (and received by and taken from) all who knew her. So, while I will mourn the taking, I will also choose to celebrate the giving and the receiving, and count myself lucky to have had her in my life, even for too-short-a time. Sure do miss you, Ditty-Boo, bunches and bunches and tons and tons.

Love always,

C

P.S. A special thank you to everyone who read any of my month of blogs. I hope you will continue to visit from time to time, thinking out loud with me in the comments. God’s Peace to you all, and a happy, healthy holiday season!

Day 30 NaBloPoMo 2015

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