By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published December 22, 2016
“Oh, God, help me get through this Christmas,” has been my ongoing prayer for weeks.
The second holiday season without my husband is even more painful than the first—because last year, the shock hadn’t quite worn off and I was wrapped in a haze of sorrow. This year, I realize that he won’t be here, ever again, for another Christmas.
Still, all around me there’s so much joy and jolliness, and good cheer—and how I wish I could join in.
Last year I put out the Christmas tablecloth and plates, but this year—well, I can’t reach the dishes without getting up on a ladder, and it’s a bit treacherous—and I am so, so tired of asking people for help.
Widowhood is such a terrible bore for everyone—certainly for the widow herself. We want so much to be “over it,” back to our old selves, laughing and festive again—but grief has its own timetable.
I would like to assure people that after 16 months, I am just fine! I’m happy! I’m fulfilled! I can deal with the long, black hours of loneliness! Really, I’m great!
But, of course, these are lies—and every day is a struggle to survive.
Then I read about others who have endured much greater tragedies, such as parents who have lost a child—because, to me, that’s the deepest suffering of all.
In “The Magnificat,” there’s an essay by a woman whose little girl, Catherine Violet, died four years ago in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The mother, Jennifer Hubbard, writes about decorating the tree and wrapping presents amidst “quiet echoes” of her daughter’s laughter, since the child died near Christmas.
She admits that she’s tempted to forgo Christmas entirely, but she and her husband resolved to celebrate the day because it’s so important.
This grieving mother reflects on the Blessed Mother’s serenity as she peacefully gazed upon her newborn: “Surely Mary did not anticipate making an exhausting pilgrimage to Bethlehem, yet she walked with grace … Surely she did not expect the One swaddled in her arms to lead her to his cross, yet she will stand at its foot.”
I think about the marriage vows, and how on the happiest day of my life, I said words that brought a shiver down my spine: “Until death do us part.”
Later, I assured myself that nothing—not even death!—could ever separate us. That was naive, of course, because a marriage comes to a bitter end when a spouse dies.
Yes, you have a lovely cache of memories—and you certainly can pray for the person, and even talk to him aloud like in the old days—but you can’t hide the fact that he’s gone—and you are left.
Still, I take comfort in the words of this mother who survived a terrible nightmare—and has remained faithful to God.
She sees a promise fulfilled in the manger: “It’s the reminder that a journey walked in faith, although sometimes painful, is anointed with his peace, grace, and love.”
And this is why she still celebrates Christmas, you see, because she trusts “that the Baby in the manger is the reason I will see Catherine again.”
Even though my house is not decorated, and there is no tree, the manger on the mantle is all that’s necessary. Because, for me, the deepest message of Christmas is the birth of hope and the coming of the Light into darkness.
And since I believe in this Light, and embrace this Love, I cling to the hope of seeing my husband again.
“Our Lady of the Wilderness” (oil painting) by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.