It’s Christmas, I Think . . .

If you are anything like me, Christmas has a different feel to it after you lose your spouse. Having just lost Brian in April of this year, this is my first Christmas without him, and it is even more difficult than I had feared it would be. Part of that has to do with the fact that he was a Lutheran pastor, so, as I have said to others, “We didn’t just GO to church, we LIVED church.” And then there was 2020 when church was on Zoom from the middle of March until Easter, so, like every other thing that was “normal” in life, it was strangely foreign as well. At any rate, I keep trying to go to church because I want to do that, and I need to do that, but sometimes, like yesterday, it does more harm than good. I should have known better than to not sneak out the closest door after the service, thus avoiding having to risk someone asking me my two least favorite questions: “Are you doing OK?” and “How are you doing.” I know that they are just being concerned, and that they don’t know what to say because everything feels awkward about it all, so they just default to the generic question we say to everyone, not even caring if we really know how they are doing. At any rate, it was not what I needed and by the time I got home I was not just in tears, but stuck in the ugly crying and sobbing that I thought I had left behind me months ago. I literally finally gave up on doing anything else and went to my computer to write. One of the best things I learned from some online group grief counseling right after Brian died was to write a letter to myself as if it came from my husband. The strange thing is, I know what he would say, and it is always things that I also know are true, but that grief makes me blind to when it takes over my mind. It took quite a while, and I had to type through a lot of tears, but when I was finished I felt a lot better. And so, my offering to you today is this letter from my husband to me, literally written by me to myself. Perhaps it will speak to you as well, and perhaps even help you like it did me. Hugs.

December 19, 2021

Dear Julie,

I saw you crying and heard you sobbing today after you got home from church. I wish I could be there to hold you and comfort you. It is very brave of you to put your feelings on the line like that and go to church, any time, really, but right now especially. And I love you even more for it. I know how much church reminds you of me and the 27 years we spent together, much of it centered around church as we served congregations as a team: Me as the pastor and you as my unwavering support system. There were times when it would have been so much harder to do it all without you. Thank you for being there for me.

Even when it’s not just five days away from Christmas, I see you struggling to remember that all those people who ask, “How are you doing?” or “Are you doing OK?” are concerned and well meaning, and, well, quite frankly have no idea what to say, yet feel like they should say something, anything —  and that’s all they can come up with. Do you remember how, over the course of our fight with my Parkinson’s, we used to talk about how people with PD can “fake it” and “be on” for others when they need to? When that happened with me, it would lead to friends saying things to you like; “Wow! He’s doing really well!” But we both knew that wasn’t the case. You knew that when all was said and done, and it was up to you to slip back into full-throttle caregiver mode, that I would not be “OK;” that I would be tired, perhaps cranky, hallucinate, or be confused. I had used up the effects of my meds and my energy to “look normal” to others, and that meant there was nothing left for you. In other words, we would both be left wishing, with all our being, that I truly was OK; that Parkinson’s hadn’t taken over our lives; but, most of all we would wish that it was not slowly, but surely, stealing my life away from me, right before your eyes, and we were both helpless to do anything to change that outcome.

So, here you are, spending your first Christmas without me, and everything about it reminds you of all those Christmases we spent together. Remember how hectic it was with at least two, sometimes three, church services (that all required a sermon and one that was at 11:00 pm!)? Then there were the times when Christmas fell on a Monday, which meant there were even more church services (and sermons!) to prepare for because a service on Christmas day was added to the regular ones on the weekend! How about that frigid Christmas night when I came home from the two early evening services, expecting to be able to kick back and relax before heading back to church for the late evening one, and you met me at the back door and announced that the furnace was not working, and we had no heat. So, instead of relaxing we had to put our heads together, call someone to come and look at it, and eventually come to grips with the fact that our Christmas present to each other that year looked like it was going to be a new furnace?!

You know what, Julie? Those were wonderful times, simply because we were together. We had each other. We were a team. And, while we more-or-less took those times for granted, because life was hectic, and they just became part of the story, they were important. Now, looking back, all those times that we pooled our emotional resources, made decisions together, struggled together, and loved each other through it all, those are the memories that you need to dig deep inside your heart and mind to find and sustain you through the tough holiday days ahead, not just for Christmas, but going forward into the new year as well. And, while you know that I didn’t want to leave you so soon, I had no choice, and, as we talked about so many times, it was inevitable that one of us would have to leave for Heaven before the other. We just couldn’t fathom that it would be so soon . . . or so hard to deal with. Please know that the years we spent together were some of the best ones of my life. That having you beside me in my ministry was a constant source of strength, and often, just the inspiration I needed to keep going. Do you remember that evening, just several weeks before I died, when I looked at you and said, “Before I met you, I was afraid I would be alone for the rest of my life”? I knew then that my time with you was growing short, and I wanted to be sure you knew how important our love was, and always would be, to me. Life was so much better with you than without you. Don’t spend anytime wondering what you “could have done better,” or what you “should or should not” have done. It didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter now. We had each other. We loved each other. And that made it all worthwhile. Instead of dwelling on what you wish “would have been,” be comforted by memories of all that we had. Those, and the love we shared are something no one, or nothing, not even death, can take away from you. And when you are sad and missing me, remember that I am happy, free from my pain, and whole again. Most of all, remember that I am “living the dream” that I prepared for my whole life: spending eternity with my God and Savior. And then, remember that someday, when you have written the last chapter of your life, I will be standing at the gates of Heaven with open arms to welcome you home, and we will be together again – this time forever.

Celebrate the Savior’s birth and have a blessed Christmas, my love. Move forward in the new year and continue to write the next chapter in the amazing story of your life.

All my love,


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