Mom’s Saddest Christmas

green plant with red ornament planted in white ceramic pot
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Mom often talked about her saddest Christmas.

Well… in the grand scheme of things – it WASN’T the saddest Christmas ever, but it was kind of sad.

First, you need to understand our family. When I was a kid, our family was just the four of us … my parents, my brother and me. The only other relative is the world we were close to was my dad’s mom and she lived faraway in New Jersey. So no big family gatherings on holidays.

Dad wasn’t big on Christmas decorations when we were kids (though he mellowed out as our family grew). If he felt we were missing out on something, he told us he’d buy us an extra book which was fine was us … at least most of the time. Not until we moved from the country to the suburbs did we even get a tree.

So since there wasn’t a family gathering, and just a scrawny tree surrounded by book-shaped packages, Dad would say about 4:00 on Christmas Eve afternoon, “Ok, let’s get this over with.” I remember even as a kid thinking that people were still out Christmas shopping and all our presents were already opened.

This particular Christmas (Mom’s sad Christmas), Dad did his usual “Let’s get this over with” announcement on Christmas Eve afternoon. But Christmas morning we still needed to get up early because Dad was speaking at Christmas chapel at the Pacific Garden Mission down in Chicago – which meant a fairly long drive.. That was ok. Our parents had explained to us the importance of serving others. Besides we had new books to read on the way.

Dad spoke and we sat on the platform looking out over the sea of troubled faces.

The service over, we went back into the misty, chilly day and headed home. That’s when Dad started feeling sick … and throwing up. He had caught a full-blown case of the flu. Once home, he went straight to bed, getting up only to make another trip to the bathroom to throw up even more.

So there we were. Dad calling mom every five seconds because he needed something. Two kids sitting at the table, waiting for Christmas dinner, all presents opened.

I remember that Christmas, but Mom remembered it more and often brought it up. I imagine being the mom and wanting a fun day for her kids. I think the circumstances frustrated her more than they did us. (After all, we had new books to read.)

Though Mom called it her sad Christmas, she knew in comparison to truly sad Christmases this one wasn’t all THAT sad.

Because truly sad Christmases are a part of life for many people.

*Some are workaholics that don’t stop for anything.

*Some see no reason to even think about Christ’s birth.

*Some have no family or friends and are truly alone.

*Some have families who have stopped communication. (Like the men dad spoke to at the mission.)

*Some are homeless.

*Some have recently faced a traumatic event.

Yes, ours was momentarily sad, but we had food, we had each other (we even had dad though he was super sick), we had the Lord and heard our dad share the true meaning of Christmas with the men at the mission, and we had lots of books ………..

The thing is – a lot of people are sad – not just at Christmas, but all the time. They know how to put on a happy face and pretend everything is fine when everything inside of them is not fine.

The thing is, we can’t just assume that everyone’s smile is real – at Christmas or at any time.

*We need to listen to what people are saying.

*We need to pay attention and remember what they tell us.

*We need to ask questions.

*We need to show kindness.

*We need to care.

Sometimes an encouraging word can change a person’s day from sad to … maybe not merry, but at least joyful. And no, we won’t always know the resulting affect of our encouragement.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 –  And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 

Do what you can to encourage a sad person this Christmas and every day. We don’t know what people are thinking under a “I’m-fine facade.” Let’s be the one who encourages.

(Ken changed the dynamic of our family. He absolutely refused to open gifts at 4:00 on Christmas Eve – and there after we became normal – opening a game or PJs on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning.)

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