Because I love Christmas, it is always a bittersweet challenge to pack up everything, tape the boxes closed and carry Christmas to the basement.
I simply cannot endure the thought of an entire year before I pull out the twinkle lights, caress my angel collection and replay memories associated with the ornaments.
This Christmas was especially difficult as my son had to work through the holidays. I missed being with him as I remembered Christmases past and the excitement of a little boy discovering his first drum set, a giant box of Legos and a package of plastic army men.
This Christmas also brought more confusion for my mother. Her Alzheimer’s side effects seem to peak during the holidays, when I long for her to remember the daughter she sewed for, the special box of books she placed under the tree with my name on the tag, my excitement when I opened that box and knew I would soon be transported into the mysterious world of Nancy Drew.
This year, Mom didn’t even remember that Dad now lives in heaven. Our quality time was nonexistent, and when I drove her back to assisted living – she argued about living there. She couldn’t even remember why someone had given her presents.
So to preserve some joy of the season, I rearranged my pearl lights on the mantel and merged winter accessories with pine cone candles. Just a touch of Christmas to lessen the loss.
But I needed more. I have learned the best way to preserve the joy of Christmas is to proactively use my Christmas cards. I keep them in a pile beside my Bible, then each morning throughout January and February, I choose one card and pray for that person or the family that sent the card.
I remember special friends and family members, clients and colleagues by reminding God of their importance in my life, lifting up their needs to the only one who can fulfill them.
It helps me tolerate the cold fingers of winter as I focus on the warm love of the God who transcends every season and time.
So as we move into 2016, let’s all try to find more tangible ways to seek hope.
Then next year during Christmas, we can celebrate with extra joy.
As my siblings and I checked out the room in assisted living, we talked about the various pieces of furniture that best fit the space. We wanted to bring Mom’s furniture and accessories that would help her feel most comfortable in her new surroundings.
Family pictures—of course, artfully displayed on the corner cabinet that belonged to her aunt.
A small dresser, big enough to store her clothes and still become a TV stand.
The daybed from Mom’s guest room with her favorite quilt to keep her warm and provide extra color.
An antique lamp I gave her with a crystal shade that reflects the prisms of light.
Her recliner and her favorite glider.
Some plants, maybe.
Although her room includes a small kitchenette, we want her to eat the nutritious food in the dining room. So her dishes will remain at the house and later, much later, we’ll decide what to do with them.
One day as I poured out my heart to God about Mom’s situation, I looked around my own house. What would I choose to live with if I had only one room? Besides the basics of a bed and a dresser, what would give me the most joy? Pictures of my son, of course, but which of the many albums would I choose? The ones that remind me of the sweet baby I held or the ones of school years? What about his graduation pictures? Can I somehow condense my son’s entire life into one album?
Which of my clothes would I choose? Certainly, I couldn’t take all my colorful scarves and jewelry, and I would miss those. I love my kitchen dishes and how they coordinate in deep crimson, yellow and sage green. But like Mom, I probably wouldn’t need them. And which of the shoes would I take? Which Bible of the many translations? How would I continue to write without my files, my special desk and the pictures of Santa Fe that surround my office?
Certainly I would take the pottery that reminds me of the Southwest, those special pieces I found in unique stores. But what of the many books that line my office, make crooked stacks in my bedroom and piles on the kitchen table? I love books. How could I live without them?
I suppose that within the shadows of dementia and Alzheimer’s, none of these things really matter. But every time I play my piano, open a book or wash the dishes—I realize how grateful I should be that I still enjoy my things. Who knows how long those treasures will last.
What about you? If you were limited to one room, what would you choose to surround yourself with joy?