Tonight I labor to find the words that will ease the spirits of several friends and family members as Christmas approaches. For the first time, these friends face Christmas without a father, mother, brother or son. The recent losses of these families weighs me down, and even my fingers find it hard to search out the right keys, form the best words, offer comfort within the grief.
All of the platitudes and well wishes voiced through love and concern cannot ease the ache or fill the emptiness. The next year becomes nothing but an endless list of “firsts.” Christmas, the New Year, Mother's Day and Father's Day, birthdays—every day. Every day will take effort to breathe and move. Every day will require unbelievable strength to simply make it from sunrise to sun set.
Everyone processes loss differently. You’d think it would be easier to find acceptance with the loss of an elderly or ill parent, but loss is loss. Sorrow slips into the room at unexpected moments and silently taps you on the shoulder, whispers into your ear, “Remember how much Dad liked that?” or “Mom’s favorite song’s on the radio again.” And the mourning stays fresh.
Within the last week, we learned of the death of one of the younger members of our family. I watched the suffering of his father, mother and brother. I stood witness to the weeping of his aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. I shed my own tears for the living as well as for him. Now, their lives demarcate into before and after. I hope this separation of their lives won’t rip them apart. I long to pull them tightly into an embrace that can bind their family together and protect them from this anguish.
Tonight, another branch of the family sits at the bedside of their father. The hospice nurse tells them it’s time to take care of the final details. They, too, face the first Christmas with an empty chair.
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman