Never the Same

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I used to think the worst thing that could happen would be to lose someone I love during the Holiday Season. I’ve often wondered how you could possibly ever celebrate the holidays again.

I am quickly learning that the time of year it happens to be when you lose a loved one really doesn’t matter once the holidays come.

Sure, as I write this, it’s still October and the “holidays” technically don’t start until Thanksgiving; but, in my mind, they started months ago. This will be the first year of my entire life that I won’t at least talk to my mother on the phone during this special season. I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to make her pecan pie or dressing recipes – I never quite matched her, and I don’t know that I ever want to. I think that if I tasted just the right amount of “some” vanilla or “a little” poultry seasoning like she made them, I would never stop crying.

I can say that a good 75 percent of my Christmas decorations are things my mother either made or sent to me when I was just starting out on my own and too broke to afford them. I often smile to myself about the horrible stuffed elves she used to put up when I was a kid. I would give anything to see them again. “Elf on a Shelf” is not the same.

In mid-October, I found myself standing in a store in the Christmas aisle, clutching a snowman cookie jar and sobbing. People walked by, looking like they wondered whether to call the police or an ambulance.

I could skip every lifelong holiday tradition this year and it still wouldn’t matter. I can’t trick myself into not thinking about her.

Even if I tried to be one of those people who “just isn’t that into” the holidays, it would never work. My mom made the most wonderful time of the year one of the most treasured parts of my psyche. Those memories have always made my heart happy. Why does that have to change now? Maybe it doesn’t.

I know, for sure, that my mom would not want me to mess up Thanksgiving, and especially not Christmas, for any reason – especially not because I am riddled with grief over losing her in June. She would tell me to put a smile on my face and get some matching reindeer pajamas for my sister and me.

The truth is, I am hardly the only one feeling this way, even so many weeks before the season officially begins. I know that my father, sister and brother are also feeling anguish over planning anything this season, yet terrified at the thought of doing nothing.

At this time of year, there are scores of lost souls like us roaming the Christmas aisles. There are no magic words you can say to make it better, but there is one gift you can share: the joy and kindness that seem to be in ample supply at this time of year, if you’ve got a little to spare.

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