This is the fourth Christmas I have spent without Phil. I find that fact almost incomprehensible. Where has the time gone? How do I begin to count the things that have happened in my life since his death? The kids have grown several inches, our families have grown and changed, our house is different in many ways, and I put up the Christmas lights in record time (I am getting good at it!)…and all of these things are bittersweet. Life has changed in a variety of ways, and yet Phil is still dead. He gets the updates about our lives via my heart-to-heart chats with him, but there are now other people who get the updates, too. There are many parts of Christmas that remind me of him, of us, of a life that is no longer…sometimes the memories make me laugh, and other times they make me cry and there are still days when I shake my head in wonder that Phil is not coming through the front door any minute.
So how can I be merry? How do I savor a life that Phil isn’t sharing? When do the memories cease being haunting? I can only answer for myself…and what I have found is that knowing that Phil is forever in my heart gives me the comfort I need to have a different life. Things aren’t what they once were. I am no longer naive to the concepts of death, grief, devastation, and despair. Meeting these dark companions has changed my life. When I discovered how dark life can be, I instinctively reached out for the light. As I walked through the valley of fear and uncertainty, I searched for a path towards hope. And when I experienced the absolute truth that life is actually short, my own life became more valuable as a result. My new motto is, “Live.” Live for today, because this moment is the only one we have.
How then to be merry? Accept that healing takes time. Know that happiness is eventually, and always, a choice. Hold tight to the love you have for your spouse, but don’t let that hold become so tight that it strangles the living you. Value the opportunity to change someone’s life, in ways large or small. And as a good friend once said to me, rest in the riddle.
Wishing all of you the chance to be merry….even if only for the briefest of moments.