Actually, it’s two nights before Christmas Eve but I still feel sort of compelled to write this. My thoughts on this time of year have shifted around. Today I felt an intense emptiness, so much so that I surprised myself in declaring I wanted to get away and ignore the traditional get together that Christmas brings. I don’t feel happy or smiley, but I also don’t want to be miserable or sad. I’m stuck in a plethora of emotions and I can’t decide what to feel. It just all feels endless.
There is one thing I’m looking forward to though and that is visiting the cemetery where some of my Dad’s ashes were buried. We’re still waiting for his stone to go down but in the meantime, my lovely Mum donated a bench that we can go and sit on. It had snowed heavily not long after it was delivered so now I’ll at least be able to sit and admire the peace and quiet of the churchyard. We’re also intending to visit for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve which long before this year has felt like my most favourite precious thing on earth. The sweet earthy smell of the incense, the carols and the feeling of intense joy in the dead of night when usually you may feel lost at home struggling to sleep. It’s a beautiful spiritual feeling and one I hope this Christmas will provide me with comfort in the hard times of being without Dad.
One tradition I read a few years ago, perhaps when my Nana died, and that was a Finnish ritual whereby family members visit ancestor’s graves and light candles to commemorate the deceased. This simple and touching idea has inspired me to do the same, and whilst we may be the only ones, I have purchased a couple of little electric tealights to place by my Dad’s grave and his bench so that hopefully we can bring some light to his spirit and bring him home over Christmas time. We also considered buying a festive wreath to place but instead my Mum has had a beautiful idea of finding some bulbs to plant so that they can root and blossom in the New Year. Instead of watching death as the wreath wilts, we want to invite new life into the churchyard and bring colour and warmth to a place of peace and of reflection.
As Christmas comes, there is nothing really to say to those who are facing grief and despair. There are no words for feeling that emptiness or that sadness you feel from the sheer loneliness you now face without your loved one here. Instead, I find it best to look to the stars. To remember their presence, to imagine their smile and to feel the warmth of their hand on your shoulder. That beautiful spirit that filled your life will never leave you, they will always be deep in your heart and they will guide you through the dark times ahead. You have to find the place that brings them home to you, that vision of their joy and happiness and know now they are no longer suffering or in pain.
It’s devastating to imagine time passing further and further away from them, to know your years ahead are going to be missing that all important figure. So, we have to remember them as we can, we have to find time in which to bring them back to us, to talk about them and to bring about memories between family and friends. They wouldn’t want us to mourn or wallow, they’d want us to live. Once we have cried, once we have sobbed and once we have suffered ourselves, it is time to stand back up and to return to life. A life they also would have wanted to live, one we now owe to live for them.
To my dear Pa. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss you so much. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember your smile or the touch of your hand. As I will never leave you, please never leave me completely. Help me through Christmas, guide me through this hard time and in the New Year we shall learn to stitch together this broken heart and find a way forward to celebrate your memory. For now, I want to reflect and I want to remember. I hope you are free. Love, Katie.