Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day After...

Well, it came.
It went.

It is now the day AFTER Christmas.

How are you feeling about it?

Some of you are "pooped" as one of my friends put it.
Others may be relieved after juggling financial and time constraints.

Me? I get depressed.

I mean since Thanksgiving I have enjoyed putting up the lights and dragging out the decorations I have not seen for a year.

I treasure each ornament's significance as I place it on the tree. Most ornaments on my tree are from the Johnston City Methodist Church Women's Society. I remember standing in a long line in November with my mother. I was twenty-two; she was in her early 50's. (So old, I had thought back then.) I humored her by getting up early to compete for purchasing hand-stitched ornaments from a local church.

"Believe me, some day you'll thank me for this, Gretchen," my mother had reassured me several times as I shivered in line whining like a spoiled child.

Now as I prepare to take down the faded, red-felt ornaments, I know how right she was. What memories they provide for me now. Memories of my mother always watching out for my future. Preparing me in some way. Preparing me for the day I decorate Christmas without her in my life.

I also put away the Christmas CD's. Music I love to hear over and over now goes into storage for another 12 months. "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "I'm Dreaming of White Christmas," (and yes, we had one this year!), "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire..." Oh, and the DVD's of old Christmas movies must be put away as well: "It Happened on 5th Avenue," "White Christmas," "Christmas in Connecticut," "The Bishop's Wife..."

I clear away the clutter of Christmas on the mantel, on the piano, on the stairway rails, around the door, on the bushes. I make decisions like, "Do I pitch the miniature lights that always seem to go out when I plug them in and have to buy new ones each year? or hold out for hope once again that they haven't expired in their use?"

I also swear each year to be more organized in my storage of Christmas items. I love seeing those Christmas organizers for ornaments and wreaths.

Yet, I know I will simply wrap tissue paper around most things or worse, sheets and garbage bags and pile plastic bins back in the basement as I do each year. My only guarantee is that I will label each bin this year so I know where each fake greenery will go next year.

Yes, it is the day AFTER Christmas.

What looms ahead are the bleak months of January, February, March. Even spring holds not much hope for me as I begin a battle with pollen, something that hit me at the ripe old age of 35! (No amounts of zyrtec, claritin, singular or inhalers seem to abate that problem. I must wait until June to breath freely again.)

Did I mention I get depressed the day AFTER Christmas? Can you tell?
Sarcasm is not pretty either is it?

One small comment though on Christmas afternoon has given me hope. I am clinging to it even as I write.

The comment came from a women in her 80's. She called to wish me Merry Christmas and said the most remarkable thing.

She said this was her best Christmas ever!

She never missed a beat. She did not know how that statement impacted me, has continued to linger with me.

You see, she is a widow. She has experienced much sadness in her life. She lost her daughter just as her daughter graduated from college and was starting her life in her career. She lost her husband a few years ago as well. Then last month, on Thanksgiving, she had a heart attack.

"This was the best Christmas I think I have ever had." That is what she said. How could that be?

This Christmas I have been haunted by images of the past. Images of my own mother sitting on my couch Christmas Eve suffering from yet another TIA or stroke. Images of her grief after losing her husband of over 60 years. Images of my father as I held his hand over two years ago as the breath of life left him. I keep thinking, this is what the future holds for each of us: loneliness, disease, death.

Yes, I get depressed as I take down the Christmas decorations and wonder what life will hold for me the next time Christmas comes around in 2011. Will I be alone? Will I be healthy? Will I have lost yet another person close in my heart? Will we be alright financially? Will the sadness ever leave me?

Yes, it is the day AFTER Christmas. I warned you. I get depressed about it.

Yet, there are her words. "...the best Christmas I have ever had..." How could she be so happy? She is in pain from her health issues; she lives essentially in one room of her house to save on heating bills; she must struggle with the memories of her husband and daughter's death; she has lost life-long friends as she ages....

She answered the questions I have without me asking her. Before hanging up the phone to retire for the night, she said, "I just love Christmas because it is Jesus' birth. Without that we wouldn't have the hope of heaven and seeing our loved ones again."

The hope of heaven. Life eternal. Seeing loved ones.

Taking down the Christmas decorations isn't the end. It isn't the beginning either. It is simply a part of an eternal pattern. I will be celebrating Jesus' birthday forever somewhere.

I pray, like the woman on the phone, I can say each year, "THIS was the best Christmas ever!" no matter what comes my way because I am truly celebrating Jesus in my life.

Happy day AFTER Christmas, Dear Readers.

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