The icy air burst through the door as we pulled in the tree; one last heave as the prickly branches poked at our cold fingers. Green sprills poured all over the entry floor – my toddler clapped her hands with glee. It was a ‘big twee in the house’; her childhood wonder pulled at my heart.
He should be here to see this. The thought that ran through my head a hundred times a day once again brought emotion welling up at the back of my throat. I pushed it down and put on a smile.
We patiently endured the agonizing process of bolting the tree into the stand, then wiring it into the wall, then standing back to make sure it wouldn’t fall over… then doing it all over again because it was slightly leaning to the left.
At long last, I went for the vacuum.
“Are you sure you don’t want help decorating it?” My sweet brother gave me a hug as he prepared to leave.
“No we’re good; Michelle is coming later and we’re going to make a night of it.”
I put on the bravest smile I could muster and sent him out the door with one last ‘thank you!’. A moment’s pause and a deep breath before I returned to the vacuum. This was going to be a long month.
My husband had deployed in March, leaving me behind with our 7 month old baby girl. In the time since he’d been gone, he’d missed his birthday, our 3rd anniversary, our baby’s 1st birthday, Thanksgiving, and now Christmas. I had gotten used to going places without him, to being the only one to turn off the lights at night; to seeing only one toothbrush by our bathroom sink. But this was new territory.
As the month crawled along I tried to enjoy the moment, but celebrating without your other half is the most unnatural thing in the world. Pretty soon the words to Michael Buble’s latest Christmas release were becoming my theme song, ‘I just want to see my baby, standing right outside my door…’
I was surrounded by the most loving family and friends and still felt alone. Our little girl’s bubbly excitement permeated every new experience as she discovered with delight the magic of the season. And yet, I struggled between the guilt and the joy, unable to fully share in the fun when his reality was so very, very different.
I loaded up multiple i-sticks with digital camera videos and photos, trying desperately to capture something – anything – that would make him feel closer to home; not left out; not alone. He reassured me that he was fine; urged me to enjoy it for both of us. But how could I without him?
Christmas came and went that year and we remained an ocean apart. There are times that I hear the familiar words to that song and my heart begins to throb, like the dull ache of an old wound. I see the pictures and still have to wonder how we did it; how we lived through it… but we did. And so will you.
There are times that separation is inevitable.
Out of your control, you stand by helplessly and watch as your world is torn apart. But regardless of the circumstances, one thing still remains: there is hope.
Whether a world away in cammo and boots, there is hope.
Whether across the country in their own zip code as you reluctantly return to your own, there is hope.
Whether laid to rest with one last goodbye, for now… there is hope.
And it is that hope that we celebrate this time of year. The Hope that brought us joy that gives us strength that grows our faith; the One that gave His life for us so that we can have an everlasting hope – that is our promise; this is our inheritance.
So no matter where you find yourself this Christmas, alone or reunited, waiting for a short time or long, we have hope in God’s promises:
The Merriest Christmas to you and yours,
- Quote taken from https://www.bible.com/bible/116/HEB.6.nlt