While for many, the holidays represent the happiest time of the year, for those of us who have lost someone close to us, they can be among the most difficult. Having lost my mom unexpectedly late last year, the wound still feels fresh and it is complicated figuring out how to enjoy this special time of year with my family that still feels such a profound loss. Nevertheless, my mom’s favorite time of year was Christmastime, and so perhaps there can be some comfort in reflecting upon the times in which we were able to celebrate together.
For those that participate in the gift-giving tradition of Christmas, it is no surprise that this is usually the day kids wait for all year. However, I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said that it was my mom who most anticipated Christmas morning each year. From the time that I was a baby, right through the very last Christmas we spent together, my mother would take immense joy in thinking about the perfect gift for each of her kids, tracking it down, wrapping it, and then waiting to see us excitedly open it on Christmas morning. She insisted on letting the Santa myth carry on even as us kids became adults, writing “from Santa” on select packages underneath our Christmas tree. And as I grew up, I saw that it was she who really was the most excited for this day as our tradition of waiting until the morning of Christmas to open gifts slowly transitioned to becoming a Christmas Eve tradition because she was so impatient to see our reactions when we unwrapped her gifts.
However, now that she is no longer with us, I see that it was so much more than the consumerist hunt for the hot item of the season, the money, or the material objects she laid under the tree. It was symbolic, especially as we grew older and started our own adult lives. Christmas was consistently the one time a year she would have all of her children under one roof. That time around the Christmas tree was one of just a couple of days a year where she, as the proud mother that she was, could look around at her kids’ faces and be the mother that she had always yearned to be. I reflect on what it must have felt like for her to have been so successful at raising her kids that they all left to pursue amazing lives of their own. It must have been such a sharp, bittersweet pride. Yet, our time spent by the Christmas tree each year had the uncanny ability of transplanting us all back to the days where we were just her little kids possessing that innocent sense of wonder that the holidays bring. If I could talk to my mother again, I would tell her that I now have an idea about what the greatest sacrifice is. It’s a mother’s unconditional love. It’s her desire to want so much better for her children…so much so that she’s willing to do the unthinkable and give them up all so that they may become complete, passionate individuals of their own.
So, the holidays will certainly never be the same again now that my family does not have my mom to excitedly prep the tree and encourage us to guess what she’s got waiting for us when we get back home. Nevertheless, my mom continues to teach me about what it means to appreciate the life we have been given and to cherish this gift as the ultimate holiday gift by doing that which makes us happy and makes the world a better place in some small way.
May you treasure the time spent with dear family and friends this holiday season!