Christmas is an odd mix for me this year.
Life with 10-, 7- and 4-year-old children brings a ridiculous amount of joy into a household. Especially at Christmas. Everyone is just so darn excited. Like when my 4-year-old asks religiously, "how many more years until Christmas?"
The anticipation is great. So are the cookies and the music and the food and the planning. And the presents!
It's fun. It really is.
But there's an undercurrent as well. We've known tremendous loss in our family this year. So have our friends. And it seems as though so many we know are suffering right now; Leontien in Indiana; a friend who just lost his dad; another who just lost her dad; another whose husband just learned he has liver and lung cancer.
Sometimes I don't know how to handle the undercurrent. It's reasonably easy to walk around smiling as if nothing's wrong and yet it's a strange feeling; I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room - my mother is not here this year - and yet, I don't want to be the one bringing everyone down. A grieving farm family once told me that people avoided them because they didn't know what to say or do. I haven't experienced that. (Or I just haven’t been smart enough to notice!) But other people often don't know how to deal with someone who's grieving, thinking that if they just don't mention it, you won't think about it, you won't cry and it'll all be ok. As if you hadn't thought of it until they brought it up.
And then there's Connecticut. There are just no words for those poor families. For the presents that won't be opened this year.
It's profound sadness, in a dark, dark world.
It's human nature to look for light in the darkness, and for the only Light that can really carry us through. And if you're a believer in Christ, you know I'm talking about the Light of the world that came as a baby in a manger, who offered hope to a dark and sinful world. As we've grieved for my mother, I have seen the love of Christ shine through in ways I couldn't have imagined. And in my life, and in my family's lives. It's crazy, really.
Even though it's not.
I've heard the same in the voices of some of the Connecticut parents. You can hear their hope when they know this world is not the end. Profound sadness. But hope.
So if you're struggling this Christmas - grief and sadness mixed with packages and carols - just know you're not alone. And it's normal.
Or at least, I hope it is.