(Today a terrible tragedy hit my community, and I’m reminded that some people wake to Christmas mourning. A timely #TBT post from December 2013. )
So. Our Christmas tree fell over.
It had been leaning for a while (like, since the second we put it up) and then, finally, after a few days, it succumbed to gravity and crashed to the ground amid the sounds of creaking branches and breaking glass and my giant fur-faced husband shouting, “YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING!”
I knew it was going to fall over — I wasn’t surprised at all when it did. Not even an hour before it made its big dramatic flop to the floor, I took pictures of it tilting off to one side, star drooping like a spent balloon. I kept asking no one in particular, “Do you think that tree is okay? Does that look right?” I knew it was all going to fall apart eventually, but I didn’t know how to fix it and I knew I couldn’t shore it up on my own, so I backed away, fingers crossed that it would last until Christmas. But it didn’t. It couldn’t. So we were all just waiting for it to go down.
Trees fall over sometimes.
They just do. Sometimes it’s unexpected and other times it’s not, sometimes there are good reasons and other times there are not. But it doesn’t really matter, because it always makes a mess. And it always sucks.
Really, it’s not the Christmas tree falling that hurts, it’s the collateral damage that wants to break your tiny heart.
After our tree fell, my husband and I got down on our knees to pick out all the memories we could salvage and to sweep the broken pieces into the palm of our hands, like little shards of Christmas past to be carried off to the trash. I learned a long time ago to hold loosely to the things of this world, possessions and people both, to the degree that I honestly worry it’s too easy for me to let go of the things I love. But when the Christmas tree fell, “aloof” is the tool I pulled out of my back pocket. For me, pretending not to be sad is easier than being sad. Old habit, I guess… old… unhealthy… habit.
It’s funny, isn’t it? How you can know something is going down – you can see it falling – but you can’t always stop it, you can’t fix it, you can only watch. And then maybe pick up the pieces. And pretend to not be sad (if you’re me. Or, actually be sad, if you are a reasonably well-adjusted adult who is not me).
Before the tree fell, I was fighting to find joy this year. I was struggling to make a place for the delight of Christmas because I was wrapped up tight in the pain of loss. When it fell, I was like, “Perfect. That is just effing perfect.” Because this Christmas was already well on its way to Sucksville and an unwilling Christmas tree was just the icing on the Birthday Cake For Baby Jesus. *rolling my eyes*
It’s been a rough one for me and for some of the people I love. Frankly, this is not the most wonderful time of the year for us, at least not this time around.
I’ve noticed this year (probably because I’m having a super lame horrible dumb stupid stupid stupid Christmas) that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of space in our lives for hurting people during the Holidays. But, man, there are a lot of hurting people. There are a lot of people for whom this time of year is sad or bitter, hollow or lonely, or just plain painful.
While some of us are celebrating, others are aching.
While some of us are toasting long lives, others are mourning life lost.
While some of us feast on family time, others are starving for love.
The bustle of activity and togetherness in December only serves to make some houses feel all the more empty.
Loneliness is the quiet enemy of Joy.
When my Christmas tree fell, it was like Christmas fell with it. The surviving ornaments stayed in a pile on the floor, and the tree, now wrenched upright and properly secured, sat untouched with bare spots and bushy places and branches all tweaked out of order. Ugly. It was ugly and sad, and it felt just like Christmas to me… it felt right.
So I left it like that until yesterday, when I decided it was too depressing to look at anymore and I set about fluffing and fixing it, rearranging it, and putting it back together. It will never return to its former glory, that is certain. This poor tree is just gonna have to be a little shabby and a little wonky and a little bit lonely looking with so few ornaments left on it this year. But, to be honest, it warmed my own shabby, crooked soul to see it there, waiting for me this morning. That dinged and droopy star calling my name, whispering a truth that I needed badly to remember…
Jesus didn’t come to fix it all. He came to be with us in it all.
God with us.
Blessed are the poor, the mourning, the meek, and the hungry… for The Lord is with us.
Merry sad Christmas, Beloved. You. Are Not. Alone.