Remembering at Christmastime…

     For the past 14 years, Lake City Church, where I’m privileged to be employed part time, hosts a Ceremony of Remembrance the first Saturday of December. The lovely event is a time set aside especially for individuals, and sometimes entire families, to join with others to remember loved ones who’ve died.

     I love what our Pastor Rodney, this year’s event speaker, says about the process of grieving:

Grief isn’t what’s wrong with us. Grief is what’s right with us.

     Processing grief always involves remembering. Remembering can be both bitter and sweet. It’s sometimes difficult to determine where bitterness ceases and sweetness begins. Often, the two potent emotions co-mingle. One minute, tears flow, and the next minute laughter erupts. Surely, I observed these types of sacred moments as I mingled and spoke with people at the recent Ceremony of Remembrance

     Remembering helps battered emotions heal. Remembering is healthy.

     Sometimes, remembering is filled with nothing but pure joy. This was the case for me a few days ago.

     I’d been reminding myself the past few weeks to update the photograph of our three older grandchildren in a picture frame that’s been reserved for their photos for close to 20 years. Finally, I got around to the task. When I removed the top photograph, I discovered treasured memories buried below—six years of Christmas pictures from bygone times when my now-so-grown-up grandkids were little tykes.

     The glow of Christmas tree lights reflected on the sweet little faces of precious loved ones all decked out in cute Christmas attire. Christmastime nostalgia grabbed me ‘big time.’

     Each year for eight or nine Christmases, I purchased these grandkids special Christmas outfits. I loved those once-a-year expenditures. Since I’m a good sale shopper, my husband never complained, although I had to agree with him that buying clothes, which may be worn only once or twice, is frivolous! Frivolity or not, I cherished those shopping experiences. The sweetness of the memories I experienced the other day assured me sometimes frivolous giving nurtures the soul.

     One of the treasured Christmas photographs I discovered was of Mackenzie, left, and Sydney, right—today sophisticated 22- and 24-year-old women—wearing one of my favorite finds. I loved the matching Christmas plaid taffeta dresses with embossed black velvet Scottie dogs. Aren’t they adorable??

     Memory is the brain’s mechanism of storing information. As I looked at six years’ worth of delightful memories, reminiscing about Christmases past, I was reminded how quickly years slip away and how dramatically life changes.

     The day came when my oldest grandchild, Sydney, told me she didn’t want me to get her clothing exactly like her younger sister’s. Sydney was becoming her own individual. While my granddaughter’s declaration caused momentary wistful sadness, I honored her wishes. The following photo, which includes Sydney’s and Mackenzie’s younger brother, Jackson, shows the last Christmas outfits I purchased for these kiddos.

     Everyone reading this post holds special memories. Some memories are sweet, filled with joy; some memories are bitter, perhaps filled with trauma.

     Memories related to loss and grief fall on a continuum of bittersweet.

     My story of loss related to my grandchildren growing up is almost all sweetness, holding only a slight a tinge of bitter.

     One woman with whom I spoke recently is dealing with the trauma of recent divorce. She’s reeling from the reality her 25-year marriage has ended. This woman’s fresh memories are raw, filled with much bitterness. All I can do is encourage her to keep taking care of herself, assuring her that in time, sweetness will once again be possible.

     A woman I met at the Ceremony of Remembrance shared with me that 26 years after the death of her infant son, she’s finally taking time to take care of her emotional needs and grieve her deep loss, which as a single mom, she’d been unable to do. This woman exemplifies the timelessness of loss, grief and recovery.

People may die, but love will never die, and relationship will never die.

~ Pastor Rodney Wright

     Whatever memory you hold this blessed season, I’m praying God will add a new measure of peace and joy to your remembrances…

Sue Reeve

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