The holidays can be an awful time of year for parents who have lost a child, or sons or daughters who have lost a parent. Whether you celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just a vacation with the person who is now in Spirit, the music, the decorations, the planned family gatherings, all make the separation sharper and the loneliness deeper.
The first Christmas without my son Eddie, and the first Christmas without my husband Bill, were like that for me. Eddie died in late September. By Christmastime, my heart was ripped apart. There would be no gifts for Eddie, no seat for him at the table. When my ex-husband suggested we make a dinner for my three daughters and have a tree with decorations, I was overcome with anger. As I was giving vent over the telephone to my rage about decorating, wondering how he could think about decorations with Eddie gone and cursing Christmas forever, I heard a noise in my hallway. While my ex stayed on the line, I went to investigate. Seeing nothing, I opened the closet door and there, on the floor, were all of my Christmas decorations. Nothing else had fallen. Nothing was broken. Shaking like a leaf, I whispered, “I hear you Eddie, I hear you.” Although our Christmas dinner was sad beyond belief, there was a tree and a dinner, and I have decorated for my daughters ever since.
My first Christmas without Bill was also a time of deep loneliness. Nothing – nobody – takes the place of that one person who used to make the holiday and everything around it better for you. Christmas was Bill’s thing. He loved it like nobody else I know, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I miss his joy around this time of the year, and I probably always will.
But I write this blog hoping that, if you are in grief or loneliness, you might see yourself in me and know that you are not alone and that all is not lost. At first, I was so blinded by grief that all else was hidden from me. There is a time for grief, there is even a time for blindness, but what I have evidence of, what I talk about, and what I have written about in my book, is the nearness of the ones we love, those dear to our hearts who seem to be gone. But Nobody’s Gone for Good.
For some, that knowledge is not enough, for although there is evidence of their nearness, the heartbreak of being in one dimension while your loved one is in another is all too real. It is too with you.
Eddie passed into spirit thirty-seven years ago, and Bill seven years ago. The promise of “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” did not come true for me for a long time, but the hard work of progression toward it began with With Eddie’s Christmas message. He began it for me. He helped me to open my mind; he helped me to become willing to leave behind everything I believed, everything I thought I knew, everything I had been taught about death, and about life. I read. I prayed. I spent hours in meditation. It took years, and although I didn’t know it at the time, I was emptying a mind hard-wired to believe that the only things that were real were those I could conceive, touch, or see. The most important gift of this “emptying” was what was came to fill it – the knowing that I was not separate from the Universe, not separate from Eddie, not separate from Bill, not separate from anyone, whether or not I shared a dimension with them.
This is a tall order, I know, but it is also true that with this awareness, peace and comfort have been given to me over time. These gifts have never left me; they have only become more precious with the years. The more I am willing to let go of my preconceived ideas, the more gifts I receive. Next week I will tell you the story of my visit to a Hopi reservation and the Tewa people I met there. I will tell you how they changed my mind, one of the greatest gifts one could ever hope to receive.