We are quickly coming to a time that is difficult for many people. The holidays are fast approaching and like countless others, I’m looking back and remembering all who have been lost throughout the years. Last week was the anniversary of 2 of my grandparents passing. In the past few years, I have also lost 2 uncles, my grandmother and father in law. I have seen those close to me say goodbye to loved ones as well.
It’s hard to not notice the empty seat at the holiday table. Saying farewell to a long time family tradition of gathering for a holiday meal altogether can be heartbreaking when you look back and remember all of the good times that you had as a family. I can remember getting together at my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving with all of my mom’s family. The laughter, the bickering and drama, the food (I miss the food so much sometimes haha) and all of the memories made sitting around the table eating stuffed shells and the usual Thanksgiving fare. It’s been many years, but I can look back and remember them quite well. Or for Christmas, all of my dad’s family would get gather (we were spread out all over the state and didn’t get to see each other often). It was days of sitting around the table for some BIG southern meals and fun with cousins.
I can remember the phone call from my dad on Thanksgiving night a couple of years ago, telling me that his mom had passed. I was so heartbroken, my last living grandparent gone. All of the family history and stories that I would never hear again. Even though it had been quite a few years since I was able to gather for Christmas, at that moment I knew that there would never be another opportunity for me to live out the memories of my youth. About a decade before, my mom called to tell me that her mom had passed. And then I had only one day to deal with that before my dad called to let me know that his father had passed.
Those were the 2 worst holiday seasons of my life. They were certainly the hardest holidays that I’ve experienced. Some years, it still hits me hard. And I know that I’m not alone.
So many people will be missing someone this year. Suicide rates are always much higher this time of year than any other, largely because people feel alone. They miss someone. They miss something from their past. Those memories haunt them something fierce this time of year.
Most people will have lost someone in their lives over the past 12 months. No matter if it was from age, illness or something else, there are empty seats around many holiday tables this year, as there are every year. People will be walking around with a smile on their face and a broken heart hidden deep behind that smile.
As sad as it is to mourn the loss of people that you have loved, it’s important to remember that death is a part of life. Jesus died on the cross and His friends mourned deeply, feeling as though their hope was gone. Not just a friend, but a brother and the Messiah, gone just as quickly as He came with so much left to teach. But they were reunited with Him! He came to them to show them that what He had said about raising the Temple in 3 days was true! He had conquered death and gave hope to everyone who believed in Him.
Death isn’t the end. It’s only the end of our time here on earth. Those who have a relationship with Jesus have something far better than the life they had here on our earthly realm. They will be reunited with Jesus and get to shout His praises in heaven! How exciting is that to think of? They’re not gone, just gone ahead! I like to think of them sitting around a fire pit with Jesus, enjoying some hot dogs and s’mores roasted over the fire, telling stories of their loved ones and telling Him about how they loved each of us.
If you’re hurting, there are people around who care for you and want to be there. Don’t be afraid to reach out. There is no shame in feeling sad or lonely. People want to be there for you. They want you to know that they love you. Don’t be too proud or too ashamed of your feelings. Everyone has experienced loss and everyone knows the pain of grief all too well. Please, let someone know.
If you’re not hurting, someone else is and they need you more than you realize. They may very likely never tell you. As the season nears and stress is increased from all of the gatherings and parties, shopping, traveling and everything else, remember that a smile, kind words and hugs are all free and extremely easy to give away! It’s hard to imagine just how much a smile and friendly greeting can mean to someone who’s so deeply hurt, but we can all remember a time in our life when just exactly that helped us through a hard day. Don’t be afraid to ask that work friend or church friend out for some coffee to chit chat. It can make all of the difference in their time of grief.