The Desolation of Christmas

xmas cakeWait. What?

Christmas is a time for joy.  Peace on earth, right?  How could it be desolate?

Twenty-seven years ago this month, my mom died.  After a long struggle with cancer, she passed in the middle of the night.  With my grandmother lying beside her in the bed, she took her hand and said, “My arm hurts, Momma.”  She laid her head on my grandma’s shoulder – and died.

My dad shook me awake.  It was about 3:00 AM.  And although we knew it was inevitable, I was still stunned into silence.  I didn’t cry.  I didn’t speak.  I didn’t move.  I was in a black hole.  One from which I assumed I would never emerge.  And though I did emerge…I still seem to visit every year.

Those first few days after my mom’s death were some of the darkest I have ever known.  And my grief during those days can be almost as tangible to me on any given day even now.  Like a clay sculpture not quite dry or a beautifully adorned cake  –  it beckons my touch, though I know even the slightest brush of my fingers will mar that glorious finished product.

That’s never truer than during Christmastime.  The desolation of what has become that slight touch of bereavement always leaves an indent, a pock mark, an indelible fingerprint in the clay-mation joy of celebrating with my own family or basking in a crisp (and rare) winter day or reveling with elation at neighbors’ lights and decorations.

I used to disdain that feeling.  “I should be past this”, I reasoned.

But no  –  some grief just becomes part of our life-equation.  To deny it would be also be to deny the hope, peace, and comfort I  have found since.  So I allow my terra-cotta life to embrace a few random impressions of digits that have wound their way around my heart, especially during this time of year.  I miss my mom a little more at Christmas.  And if you have suffered a life-altering loss…its OK to let it stick its finger in your cake a little bit.  Because we all know the icing stolen from the borders of a beautiful cake always tastes sweeter in the long run.

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