At this time last year, my house was decked out for Christmas. I had put handmade decorations in the hallway and framed my doorways with garland and ribbon. I had my Christmas china and tablecloth ready; all my gifts for family were wrapped. I welcomed the season!
And then, on December 11th, 2018, my father passed away.
The decorations came down. I didn’t put up a Christmas tree. Other than giving Christmas gifts to family and friends, I did not observe the holiday. In my heart, Christmas was cancelled. My daddy was gone.
No matter how old you are, losing a loving parent leaves a gaping hole inside you. The person you have known the longest in your life is gone; so is the person you were when you were with them. Before my Dad passed, I did not realize how much of my identity and purpose were wrapped up in being his daughter, or how much of my daily routine revolved around him. When I shopped for groceries, I always picked him up an apple pie or the chicken breasts he liked. When I shopped for clothing, I always looked for warm shirts and pants for Dad; he liked flannel in the winter and simple t-shirts in the summer. My daily thoughts were often of him. Over the past year, I’ve had to refocus my attention and accept what I can’t change. Daddy is gone.
With both parents now dead, despite my age, I feel orphaned. I have no parents. My greatest connection to my past has been severed, as has the feeling of safety and comfort in knowing the generation that preceded my own is intact. Suddenly, I am “the older generation”, though I feel totally unprepared to accept that mantle and all that it implies.
I’d like to turn the clock back. I’d like to be “Daddy’s little girl” again, walk with him to the creek, toss pennies into the water, and listen to tales of his childhood adventures in the Bronx. I’d like to go to the park with him and feed peanuts to the squirrels again, or once more enjoy a Christmas Eve drive through the neighborhood to admire the seasonal lights and displays. I’d like to see Dad’s twinkling, blue eyes again, hear his infectious laugh, and hold his hand. My Dad was 96 years old when he died; I was blessed to have him for a long time, but as I sit here lost in thought, it doesn’t seem that I had him long enough. I want more time with my Dad. He was my anchor. He was my joy. I am often lost and lonely without him.
But as they say, “it’s not possible to move forward while looking back,” so I try to keep myself centered in the present. However, there are days, like this one, when the heart tugs me backward, and loss stings, but I will put one foot in front of the other and march forward. I will find a new purpose and move on. I have no choice. Life goes on.
Why am I telling you this? Because I am not alone in my sadness. There are many who are grieving this season, many who are suffering loss, ill health, or hopelessness. Christmas is not joyous for everybody. I urge you to be sensitive this holiday. You do not know what is tucked inside the people you encounter during your daily activities. You can’t know their private grief, their troubles, or their broken dreams. You can’t know who longs for comfort and care, but it is within your power to lend a hand by simply being kind. Be gracious. Be empathetic. That’s part of the Christmas spirit, too.
As for me, my house is decorated for Christmas with hand-crafted pieces and garland framing my doorways. My Christmas china is ready. I welcome the season. I will host my family this year, give and receive joyously, and keep my sorrow tucked away inside me where it belongs.
Daddy isn’t here, but I am richly blessed to have had him as my father, and I am greatly comforted in knowing that I am and always will be “Frank’s daughter.”