To a man, we are stepping into Christmas with much trepidation or resignation.  Without our wives, it is, for some, a terrible time and, for others, at best, a melancholy time.  For me, this year will be melancholy.  But I told my grief therapist today (whom I still see twice a month) that there is a big difference for me between this Christmas and last Christmas.  My wife, Jan, has been gone for sixteen months.  Last year, it was only four.  The difference in how I face this season is noticeable to me and everyone who knows me.

Last year, I did absolutely no Christmas decorating around the house, listened to none of my wife’s beloved English carols, nor watched anything on TV that even smacked of Christmas.  This year I hung a wreath on our front door, listened to seasonal music, and watched one relevant show.  It’s a start.

I’ve got Christmas Day covered.  The day after this column appears, it will be minus two degrees here in St Louis with snow on the ground.  Christmas Eve will also be minus two, and Christmas Day only will be marginally better.  I am taking a catered feast to the home of a wonderful couple who stood by Jan and me for the past four years.  They have fallen on hard times, and I am making them my Christmas project.  My son, Michael, suggested that I turn my sadness outward and do something special for somebody rather than turn inward, moping and feeling sorry for myself (as understandable as that may be).

Christmas Eve, on the other hand, is still “open.” Other than planning to attend a midnight service at our Church, I have nothing else to do and no one to do it with, so I have not been looking forward to that.  I read a lot of books and watch a lot of YouTube and some Netflix.  I expected to try and make that work.  Then I learned that there are three NFL games on Christmas Eve.  I’m usually not a glutton for watching football, but I will make an exception this Christmas Eve.  As the weather will be bad, and I can watch live streaming of our church service on my iPad, I plan to light my fireplace, fix myself a decent meal, call some friends and family, and stay home.

There is another challenge for me at this time of year.  December 17th is our wedding anniversary.  This year marks 53 years.  We had been married 51 years and eight months when she died.  Our anniversaries are fond memories.  My own practice for as long as I can remember was to buy Jan a dozen pink roses and take her out to a nice dinner.  This year, as last year, I took that bouquet of roses to her columbarium niche at our Church and visited with her.  It was a nice visit.  I made it through this year’s Anniversary visit without crying. I figure that is indicative of the progress I am making adjusting to her absence in this life.

All of us have to navigate this season as though in the dark.  There is no roadmap for us.  We must face our loneliness alone, even if blessed with some family and friends around to distract us.

I read recently that, He who follows his own path needs no map.  I like that.  But there is the reality that we are following our own paths on this journey with no landmarks, much less a map.  Each of our journeys is unique to us.  As Johnny Cash once sang, we’ve “…got to walk that lonesome valley by ourselves.  Nobody else can walk it for us.  There is another quote I have cited often in my life.  It’s from Lewis Carroll.  If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do.  Well, I don’t know where I’m going each day.  But I’m ever faithful that I will get there, and any road will have to do.  I’m following my own path with God’s help, and I don’t need a map.  (Heaven is just on the other side of the veil ahead.) Here’s hoping that next year’s journey will be easier for us all.

Merry Christmas, my brothers, and as Tiny Tim said in A Christmas Carol, God bless us, everyone.


Michael Burroughs is the author of Moving Mountains: Facing Strokes with Faith and Hope, available on Amazon and Kindle.  He lives in St Louis, Missouri.

Copyright 2022

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