A few years ago, I read Angie Smith's "I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy," her heartbreaking memoir about losing her daughter, but more generally about the gnawing, unpredictable sensation of grief. At the time, I could only vaguely identify with her verbiage of grief being a dance... but over the past few years, for better or worse, I've learned more of what it means.
As much as I cherish the magic of the holidays, the past few years have brought with them a lot of heartache for me. My season of holidays has become a dance of grief. There's so much joy to be found in the simplest of things, but overall, there's still this hole, this emptiness and sad awareness of what life will forever be marked by. A few years back, I lost my beloved puppy Lucy after an awful illness. At the end of 2009, after a particularly rough year, my Mimi, and favorite person in the world, died tragically after a heart attack. And obviously, this past year brought the loss of my mom. Nothing makes you grow up faster, quite like being forced to say goodbye to the people you're closest to, the people who made you who you are.
Along with the absence of the familiarity of their laughs and the sweet warmth of their hugs, the scents of their perfume and their uncanny mannerisms, the frivolousness of the materialistic side of the holidays just leaves me feeling so numb. I hate the endless advertisements. I loathe the rush of shopping and the haste of the mind-numbing slew of parties. Yes, it's about spending time with the people you love... but in the midst of penciling in ornament exchanges and cookie swaps, when do you truly savor the people you love? Or do you stumble into the next year feeling as drained as I do?
My one wish this year is to slow down. I still love Christmas. I love going to church at midnight, hearing the story of baby Jesus's birth for the millionth time. I live for laughing with my family, sitting in a pile of crumbled wrapping paper, with Maizie swatting at the rumpled shreds next to me. In years' past, I've created a tradition of exchanging little gifts with my close friends, and I love it. I love surprising Sean with the perfect gift, I love watching Cary light up when he unveils his latest surprise, I love the finality of the end of the year--while it may not be tied up in a neat, symmetrical bow, being surrounded by the people you love more than anything on this earth is the absolute best feeling in the world for me. The past few years, at the risk of sounding a bit melodramatic, I've just felt a little robbed. That the holidays sneak up on you, you're missing the people you love, but going through the motions, waiting for the joy of it all to pierce through where you can finally just savor it all--and before you know it, all of the rush and worry is pointless, and here you are again, engulfed in the bleakness of January.
My "dance" of grief is the reminder that you have to feel really, really freaking awful to know how good, "good" can be. Do you follow me? Losing my grandmother changed my life forever. Losing my mom has changed me forever. Some traditions we've had are done, they're over forever. Part of adulthood is making your own traditions, which I am wholeheartedly embracing, but it all happens with a little sadness on the side. You never know when the end of your childhood traditions will come... you're just left to create your own, to put smiles on the faces of the people around you, to make the people who've come and gone, proud of what you've done and who you are.
My wish this year is to slow down, and make my mom and my Mimi proud of who I am... proud of me as a daughter and granddaughter, but proud of how I serve, and how I love the people around me. That's what I'm striving for.