Christmastime: The best of times, the worst of times

This post by Mike Staton.
This post by Mike Staton.

I love Christmastime. Since mom’s death a decade ago, I’ve come to appreciate the hustle and bustle of the holidays – or as the song “Silver Bells” puts it, “Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile, and on every street you’ll hear Silver bells.”

For some drenching one’s self in Christmas spirit – celebrating the time of Christmas – results in only dread and sadness. Luckily, I’m not one of them, but I understand the darkness that oftentimes encloses their hearts.

Several years ago after I wrote a holiday column a fellow writer said she’d lost her mother at Christmas time, turning the holiday into a time of melancholy. Yet she had to forge on and make sure her children had wonderful Christmases.

For some, Christmastime is a struggle. Maybe they've lost a loved one and can't get into the holiday mood. Some are poor and alone, and can't afford to immerse themselves in all the Christmas requirements.
For some, Christmastime is a struggle. Maybe they’ve lost a loved one and can’t get into the holiday mood. Some are poor and alone, and can’t afford to immerse themselves in all the Christmas requirements.

Back in the early ‘90s the mother of my sister Jody’s husband passed away during the Christmas season. They had three girls, one just entering her teenage years, the other two still in elementary school. They couldn’t cancel Christmas morning even with their hearts open wounds gushing with sadness. So they opened gifts and observed the traditions even though they’d buried her just days before. In the years that followed, my sister and her husband continued to provide the most joyous possible Christmas for their girls, both in faith and in secular gift buying. In their household, wrapping paper falls like snow.

Eleven years ago in mid-November, our mom passed away from ALS, less than a week from my birthday, two weeks from Thanksgiving and six weeks from Christmas. Jody made sure I had a birthday cake, just like mom would do when I spent the holidays with them. We ate Thanksgiving dinner together, then in December took communion at Jody’s church on Christmas Eve and opened presents on Christmas Day. Just a few weeks before mom’s death, Jody helped mom pick out gifts for the girls from an Avon catalogue. While Christmas shopping with the girls, Jody surprised them when they handed them mom’s gifts. I don’t recall Jody’s exact words, but can paraphrase, “Your grandma picked out Christmas gifts for you. In case the Lord called her home before Christmas, she wanted me to give them to you a couple days before Christmas so you’d not be sad on Christmas Day.”

My mother, who died in 2003 from ALS, loved Christmastime. Remembering  her joy at Christmas, I try to go the extra mile as December 25 gets closer. That's the reason for my Christmas card series I've been doing on Facebook. Merry Christmas, everyone.
My mother, who died in 2003 from ALS, loved Christmastime. Remembering her joy at Christmas, I try to go the extra mile as December 25 gets closer. That’s the reason for my Christmas card series I’ve been doing on Facebook. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Mom loved Christmas… she loved to holiday-shop and listen to the Carols playing in the stores, loved to bake Christmas cookies and candy, loved to put up the tree and hang the ornaments, loved to watch her grandkids unwrap their presents, loved to reminisce about past Christmases. Remembering just how happy mom was at Christmas helps me continue to bask in Christmas spirit in spite of the rough times we all experience.

So when you’re in a mall or a traditional downtown store or perhaps walking into a cinema or taking a walk through a snowy park, if you see someone who looks harried or glum, remember to say a simple “Merry Christmas.” They may break into a wide smile or they may ignore you outwardly. But inwardly they’re glad you took the time to connect with them, especially if they’re coping the best they can with rough times.