The Day After Christmas

I don’t know about you, but the build up to Christmas Day has been a tough one this year. The closer it got to the day, the harder it was to continue faking that “jolly Christmas spirit” that is expected of everyone, unfairly, even for those of us who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Bear with me while I give you a little background to my train of thought behind my post today. When I met my husband, Brian, nearly 30 years ago, I had just finished going through a messy divorce. I was a single mother of four children, ranging in age from 17 to 5, and my only source of income was my teaching salary. Needless to say, funds were tight. I’d met Brian in the summer, and by Christmas we pretty much considered ourselves a couple. I did not bring many of my Christmas tree decorations with me, and definitely did not have the money to go out and buy new. In fact, I didn’t even know how I was going to buy a tree. One afternoon, early in December, Brian showed up at my door with a beautiful real tree! He helped us set it up and it was even more beautiful than it looked when he brought it our door! I decided that it would be fun to make our own decorations for it, so my children and I spent countless nights making ornaments and stringing popcorn and cranberries to create a garland. The result was an amazing tree, filled with so much love in so many ways. So, this Christmas, as I was thinking about what to do to decorate the large evergreen wreath I had placed at his gravesite, I remembered that wonderful tree and the garland we made for it. It didn’t take long to decide that, on this first Christmas without him, reprising that garland for the wreath would be a fitting tribute to the love he showed for me that first Christmas we were together. So, since Mother Nature seems to be on the wrong calendar page for what is supposed to be December in Iowa, and it had been 53 degrees yesterday, with no snow on the ground, and it was still in the 40’s today, I thought it would be a perfect time to make the hour drive to the cemetery and decorate the wreath. After I was finished I had a heartfelt talk with Brian, cried, and told him how much I loved and missed him. I asked him to help me get through this terrible loss, and, from time to time, to let me know he was there for me. When I got home I sat down and the poem that follows is what I wrote. I had a strange feeling of peace after writing it, and I am going to credit him with providing that, as well as the inspiration. I hope that you are also finding ways to navigate the stormy seas of grief that rise up and flood our souls during holiday times such as Christmas. Much is expected from those of us who have already given so much that there is often precious little left over. But, we are strong, and the love we still hold for our spouse will help us make it through it all, if only we will let it. Hugs.

‘Twas the day after Christmas and the house was so still.

The tree lights were glowing, yet the air held a chill.

The presents were opened and piled in a chair,

while the memories of yesterday still filled the air.

The guests had all gone home to where they should be,

and normally that would just leave you and me.

There we’d be, cuddled together, up close to the fire,

a tradition of which we never would tire.

But this year was different because God called your name

and you left us for Heaven, and now nothing’s the same.

When I look at the table, at your empty chair,

I know that you never again will sit there.

Your stocking is gone from the fireplace, too.

So much that I see brings my mind back to you.

Then the longer I stood there, the more that I thought

not of things that still could be, but of things that could not.

“Please stop. You know better!” I could just hear you say.

“You know that we will all be called Home someday.

No, it never is easy, and it feels so unfair

when the one you love is no longer there.

But that love IS the answer! Yes! That love is the key.

If you keep it inside you, it will set you free!

Take your time with your grieving. It’s Ok to go slow.

Just remember, I’m with you wherever you go.

Live your life and be happy, and whatever you do,

don’t forget, here in Heaven, there’s a place for you, too.”

Julieanne Gentz, December 26, 2021

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