Grief is an odd companion, showing up at surprising and unexpected moments. One such moment happened on Saturday morning, December 5. I thought that sealing envelopes, applying stamps and return address labels on the stack of Christmas cards I’d prepared on November 30 was a simple task I could complete. I hadn’t gotten very far in the pile when I saw the one I’d written to my sister Jane, who died on Dec. 2. Simple, it was not. A doorway into grief, it was.
Rod and I have sent Christmas cards, including a family picture and letter since 1973. Rod’s parents do the same thing, and he has carried on the tradition in our family. Rod deserves much of the credit for this annual endeavor, planning months in advance to schedule a time we can all be together for a family photo. He even asked me earlier this week if I would take a picture of our house at night with our garlands, bows, wreath and lights in the window for next year’s card. I am still savoring this moment, and he is planning for next year. We make a good team.
Early on, like his father, Rod wrote the letters. But along the way I requested that the kids and I have the opportunity to use our own voices. Rod, wise and smart, was happy to share. Our children were not always as happy to participate. One year, our younger son’s contribution was, “I don’t want to write a Christmas letter this year.” That was a winner!
My opening words in this year’s edition which I wrote in early November are: “How could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?” (Psalm 137:4 – The Message). It is a text that keeps coming up in the midst of the pandemic. It was an important question for the exiled Jewish people in Babylon, and an important question for our time as well.
Ironically, I almost always have a song running through my head. I will catch myself whistling or humming a tune aloud. . Even now, in the midst of grief, somewhere deep inside of me, there is this crazy, defiant playlist that jumps from “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” to “I’ll be home for Christmas…if only in my dreams” to “Abide with me, fast falls the evening tide.” And as I write, “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” popped up. Go figure.
I don’t need to send the cards, and there is no pressure to do so. But somehow, that feels like letting this terrible season win. I refuse to let that happen. My answer to “how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?” is “sing, we must,” (in safe ways).
PS – you can view this year’s Christmas Card by using this link: