Six years ago I was having a miserable Christmas season.
Jack's diagnosis plus his behavior death spiral had turned life into something unrecognizable.
We couldn't go anywhere: the behaviors were too unpredictable and not fit for public display. Being at home wasn't much better: Jack's inability to communicate beyond melting down and tantruming on the floor, and my inability to understand him made home life equally difficult.
Life as we knew it had crumbled into ruins around us, and we were starting a new life as it were. The only trouble was, we didn't know what the heck we were doing, and I was still grieving what our life had been. I cycled through the stages of grief practically daily.
With Christmas approaching, I found that none of the trappings of the season brought me any joy. I felt sad and Christmas should be a happy time of year. Can't we just skip it, I thought? Can't we just go directly to January, or better yet, mid-March?
Whenever I heard Carly Simon sing that she wished she had a river she could skate away on, I actually (literally) wished I had a river I could skate away on, leaving my problems at home and finding nothing but frozen crystalline beauty and stillness.
Despite my wracked emotional state and my hard candy shell, some seasonal gems managed to shine through the cracks. I remember sitting in church hearing two men in our congregation sing O Holy Night, and feeling like light was streaming into my body. I played Christmas hymns on the piano every evening after putting my boys to bed, which felt a little like applying a balm to my stinging heart.
One afternoon I whined to my neighbor Karleen that I didn't understand why all this misery had to happen at Christmastime. She listened to me and replied, "Maybe it's to remind you that Jesus came to earth."
Her words were a bud of truth which I pondered as it opened slowly in me, a blossom of hope.
This December, I've been processing and coming to terms with the challenges of a different son. It's been a similar struggle, played out on a smaller scale than the one six years ago.
But this season is lovely, not sorrowful. I am daily breathing the fragrance of that flowering blossom of peace that began when Jesus came to earth.