An unexpected Christmas post

Blogger’s Note: I’m re-posting this blog from last year. And yes, in many ways, Christmas still feels hard to me. But thankfully, dad is still here to celebrate another Christmas, a reminder for me to stay in the present moment.

May we have times of celebration and stillness, solitude and joyful festivities during this “holy” season. And may we open our hearts more deeply to the greatest gift of all — love.


I hadn’t intended to write another blog post until after the New Year.

Then, this one kept calling me. It’s about how hard this Christmas feels to me. Not soft around the edges, or even warm or cozy or jingly. I got to thinking that this might be the last Christmas with my dad.

For those who may not know, he had a stroke almost three years ago. It’s been a rough, long three years.

heart in snowIn many ways, his care is something I thought I could never do, the endless medical appointments, the physical and compassion fatigue, the sadness of losing the dad I once knew and learning to love the new dad I now have.

As to this being his last Christmas — I know, I know. Stay in the present moment. I try. Still. He is 88. And the thought of no longer having dad next Christmas lingers on the edges of my mind and heart.

And then, there’s what to buy him. Why is it so hard this year? Didn’t I buy him something last year, and what was it? He can’t have the things he once enjoyed like his thick-rolled cigars (although I hated them, the stinky things) or his Bailey’s Irish Cream or even his spiritual CDs because he wouldn’t comprehend them.

So I sank into a heap of despair this past week, all that weighing on me.

Then I ran into a neighbor who lost her husband two weeks ago. I saw her in the driveway, loading up the back of her station wagon with cardboard boxes. I asked how she was.

“Oh, I bawl my eyes out, but I keep going. Right now I’m packing up a lot of his clothes to give away.”

I listened a bit more, watching the sorrow seep out of her eyes. Her grief triggered my own anticipatory grief.

Sometimes it just seems like there’s too much sorrow in the world and not enough happy, especially during this season designated as the “happiest time of the year.”

And yet, while at the mall the other day, I saw a child’s face light up like an angel’s at the sight of the red-suited man himself, and her peppermint-striped leggings and pink cheeks made me smile.

And I thought of a woman who has become a friend, a speech therapist who helped my dad while he was in the hospital. She gives of herself with love, always asking to be placed where she is most needed. Her goodness touches me.

Then I had the thought: Is it possible to hold the sorrow and the happy at the same time?

Yes. Of course it is, because this is the paradox of life itself, to accept the sadness and the joy and everything in between. It is the exquisite price of admission to this journey we call human.

So I finally asked dad the other day: What do you want for Christmas?

Sometimes — despite his lack of cognition and inability to speak coherently — he said:

Your love.

I clutched his hand and caught my breath.

christmas-heart-treeSome things in life we can’t wrap in shiny paper or put a big red bow around them. But when the sadness of life comes calling, sometimes we need to remember — as The Little Prince said:

“It is only with the heart one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

And when we see “rightly” then life isn’t so hard. In fact, glimmers of joy spark through the sorrows.

So, dad, it may be a pair of comfy sweat pants this year, but the “real” gift will be the one you asked for. You’ve always had it.

This Christmas. And forever.




10 thoughts on “An unexpected Christmas post

  1. That was beautiful! Touched my heart. I know those feelings from my own Mom’s stroke shortly before your Dad’s. Your Dad and Mom are some of the best people I know. Their witness of true love for God, their family and friends is what makes them so wonderful. They ARE LOVE!!!! So it’s not surprising that your Dad, even in his present state, would say that because that’s what he has always given and desires.
    Treasure this Christmas with him! You and your family are his greates treasures, and he yours.
    In the conversations I’ve had with him throughout the years, you could always tell how much he loves and is proud of all of you.
    Please, this Christmas, give him my love too. He’s one of the greatest and most loving people I have ever known.
    Merry Christmas to all of you!
    May God bless you abundantly.
    Lisa and Roger Benton


    • Thank you, Lisa! I’m very, very blessed to have two beautiful people as parents. And I’m so happy that you and Roger have known and loved dad and mom through the years. Dad has given of himself so much to others, always in love, and he’s given me the best gift ever in that example. With love and gratitude to you, Lisa, for your friendship to dad and being so faithful to dad, even after the stroke. That touches me deeply. I will make sure to give your love to dad and I wish you and Roger and family a blessed and joy-filled Christmas!


  2. I read this on email and at the time it was posted. I was unable to Comment, but as always your writing deeply moved me….too much for me to read again just yet, but I’ll be back here in time. Losing someone just days before Christmas made it a little difficult for me. Dear kind Marielena, I will return, and thank you for sharing, the love within you……in what you write. My thoughts were so often with you during this Christmas.
    Love, love.


  3. A perfect story for me to read this fine Christmas day. Thank you for the way you touch our hearts. I was just with my 86 year old dad yesterday and feeling some of these same feelings… also wondering what I could have given him (besides a new hat that didn’t fit very well) for a gift. I think he might have said the same thing if I had asked him. It’s what we all want, really. Love to you, Marielena, wishing you love each day.


    • I’m so happy you liked this blog post, dear Kris! I had no idea you had an 86-year-old dad and had many of these same feelings. Yes, love is the most precious gift of all, not just on Christmas but every day. Thanks, my friend, for taking time to read my blog posts. With so much gratitude and love to you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s