The tangle of conflicting intertwined emotions weighs heavy on my sternum. Some angles are sharp and literally, physically hurt when they rub against my inside. Mostly the mass just seems to ache until I can find some sort of distraction to numb the damaged spot.
Christmas is usually filled with mostly happy thoughts and memories. Yes, there’s been hard years especially the first holiday season after my dad left and the one after my brother-in-law passed, but this one is different.
I know God’s timing is perfect and I can think back over the last couple of weeks and clearly see His hand preparing my heart and the circumstances for the day He would take my grandmother home to be with Him. He didn’t leave any detail untaken care of.
My heart was already where it needed to be in adoration of the Savior’s birth. My shopping done, my preparations completed, my groceries brought home and all put away – when I got the phone call I had been expecting.
Mom was understandably emotional as she described the last moments Grandma spent on this side of eternity and how she slipped into the other.
In the roughly 48 hours since then, the tangle of emotions has swelled. Like a tide, it has come in waves and gone in waves too.
The thought of my grandmother’s reunion with my grandfather literally brought tears of joy to my eyes. The sound of exhaustion and pain in my mother’s voice brought feelings of helplessness. What could I do to lesson her burden? The ending of the candlelight service on Christmas Eve led to hugs from good friends that brought me to sobs on Wally’s shoulder right there in the front of the sanctuary. Perhaps I would have stayed there longer, if it weren’t for one my daughters asking loudly, “What’s wrong with Mom?!”
This morning, we gathered around the advent wreath and, as a family, discussed the Light of Life that has come into the world and worshipped by singing “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Then the girls unwrapped gifts and toys we had bought and I had wrapped. I did delight in the joy on their faces and was thankful for the happy moments we could share.
This afternoon, Wally found me back in bed. My feelings were more than the physical exhaustion caused by the late-night-Santa-visit playing and the early-morning-Santa-visit discovering. I told him I was just sad. He encouraged me to embrace it and not try to fight it, so I allowed myself to cry
My own words from my Sunday school lesson the morning of her passing are still ringing in my ear – how Jesus’ birth was God’s guarantee to keep all His other promises to His people. Because He kept His word to send Jesus, I can trust that He has kept His word to my grandmother and she is in His presence even now.
I can sleep tonight knowing He will keep His word to me too. That tangle of emotions weighing on my chest includes this hope. Not only that she is truly in a better place, but that one day I will be too. In the meantime, I am not carrying this emotional mess on my own. He knows what I am feeling. I am not alone. He is with me.
I get why people drink to forget, to numb the pain, to escape. I like just having the television on for the background noise it provides. The distraction from the heaviness of these emotions is welcome. I cannot judge anyone for succumbing to the temptations of anything that will dull the distress or ease the burden for just a little while.
Pain, hope, peace, longing, helplessness, gratefulness, sadness, loneliness, joy, happiness, frustration, anger, comfort, appreciation, fear, anticipation . . .
I would describe my feelings as an emotional rollercoaster, but today, Christmas Day, that just doesn’t seem accurate. Yes, there have been high highs – good things have happened today and there have been low lows – like when I debated skipping the family gathering with my husband’s side of the family. But all through the highs I was still feeling lows and even at my lowest today, the highs seemed to be mingled in as well.
If emotions are defined as colors, tonight, mine would be a muddy, brown, mess.
My bags are pretty much packed and so are the rest of my crew’s. We will leave first thing in the morning to be with family and prepare for the services to lay my sweet grandma to rest. We are also taking more Christmas presents with the promise of continued celebrations of the season.
As a result, the tangled weight of emotions will continue. I didn’t have to pack them for the ache remains inside me. The sting of unexpected tears will overflow onto my hot cheeks without warning as they remain ready just beneath the thin surface of my failing attempt to hold it all together all the time.
It is all pretty raw . . .
Yet, in my head and heart I know that because of Christmas, Jesus relates to my suffering and heartache for He experienced them too. In fact, His whole life must have been one where He carried a similar burden as well. Hope with hurt, pain coupled with peace, frustration tempered with love.
This is what I will chose to focus on as I pray for sleep to come tonight.
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