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.
In 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:
I clutched his hand and caught my breath.
“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.