I’ve sat down almost every day this week to write. Each day with the same blank page after 20 minutes of typing and deleting. There are so many things going on in my head and my heart it doesn’t seem like I even know where to start to get them out. It’s a jumble of grief and nostalgia and both bring with them sadness but both also bring joyful memories.
I wasn’t sure how to “deal” with Christmas this year. Nothing seems like the right answer and the perfectionist in me wants to get it right, no perfect, the first time. It felt like every little thing I did or so this year would set the precedent for how every holiday would go. That if I didn’t find the perfect solution for honoring, acknowledging, and including George Mason in our celebration, I would be set back for every year until who knows when. But then I looked over and saw Audrey Nole and the sheer wonder in her eyes at the first signs of Christmas lights, and I knew that even though I hadn’t come up with the perfect solution for this holiday season, I had to do it. So we went and picked out a tree and a few ornaments - since all of our stuff is in storage - and embarked on the first milestone of this season.
As I was driving home from the store with my seemingly pitiful little tree and generic ornaments, I thought back over all the christmases growing up with my mama. I think it was required that the 6 of us watch “The Preacher’s Wife” on a loop as we carefully decorated the tree(s). Since the thought of putting up our tree this year was so overwhelming, I got home and searched my iTunes for that movie; the one that brings back instant delight and warm memories. One that my mama loved and that I can now love with my own daughter. So I hit play and Audrey and I got to work. She meticulously placed the ornaments on branches with lights that matched the color of her ornament. She even went as far as to tell me I was doing it wrong. I’m not sure she watched a single second of that movie, but with every second of Whitney Houston’s voice, I was filled with nostalgia. And in that particular moment, it was so much better than grief.
There still aren’t stockings hung or Christmas cards designed. I guess I’m taking baby steps towards carrying out my Christmas traditions. I’m not sure which of the traditions that our little family has will be the most helpful and healing and which ones will be the hardest, but I’m trusting that my gracious and loving God will continue to walk with me as my heart navigates this season. God knew from before I was even born that in this moment I would be the mama of a little girl on earth and a baby in heaven. He has prepared me for this day and these moments for my entire life. There is nothing that is beyond his reach and the things that seem so hard to me, he knew about and was ready for. I haven’t watched The Preacher’s wife since my mama died, but God knew on the day I put up my tree, I would need those wonderful memories.
I’m thankful for nostalgia. I’m thankful for the memories I have of my mama from the traditions she worked so hard to make happen every year. I’m thankful for the strength that she had but never claimed as her own. I didn’t know how much her example of that would impact me or just how much I was going to have needed that example. Every time I start down the path of memories, it gives me one more moment to remember my son. I know there isn’t much to remember, 16 hours isn’t all that much after all, but just the act of remembering him is so good. Sometimes it hurts, a lot, but every single time it reminds me that God gave me George Mason and that wasn’t a mistake. It gives me a wonderful reason to say thank you to my creator for the honor of being able to call myself George Mason and Audrey Nole’s mama.
This particular holiday season will likely be full of many more days or moments when I need some good memories to help me escape the grief. But that’s ok. It’s ok because I can trust that God is absolutely going to keep his promises. He is absolutely going to carry me through this and the strength I need for today will be there today. And what I need for tomorrow will come tomorrow. His mercies are new every morning. Amen to that.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” - Luke 2:8-14