On Mama’s Faith and Welcoming Santa Home

I went over to Mama’s this evening and picked up her Christmas decorations.  It made me sad to think about them not being put out for the first year ever.  Even when Daddy was so sick, we put something out, as best as I can remember.  So this year should be no different.  What made me saddest was thinking about Santa being stuck in his bag.

Oh Santa.

This Santa has watched over me every year of my life.  And now he has a new home.
This Santa has watched over me every year of my life. And now he has a new home.

I grew up with this Santa standing around the tree, on top of the piano, and next to the bookcase over the years.  As far back as I can remember.  I think Mama had it when she was small, but I can’t be sure now.  The story as I recall it is that her Daddy got it from a store display that was being taken down at a store that he worked for.  He’s a beautiful Santa.  Red velvety suit and those cheeks and that beard.  I was always a little bit in awe of him growing up.  He’s just perfect.  At least to me.

As I brought down the bins and bags from the top of the closet in my old bedroom, I wanted to cry.  If my littles hadn’t been with me, all happy and enthusiastic in the excitement of the season, I would have.  The last time these were moved was in January of this year.  My children had helped Mama spread her decorations around the house in early December last year.  She hadn’t had a tree in years, but she enjoyed having her other Christmas decorations around in December.  It was early January, a Tuesday before the littles had dance and gymnastics in town, that we played a game of how quickly and how many Christmas decorations can you find?  We laid them on the bed in that same room, and Mama put them away.  I lifted and put them on the shelf in the closet.  As we were getting the job done, I noticed Mama moving a little slower and realized all over again what a hit her health had taken since Daddy died in November of 2011.  As I zipped up the last bag, I said, “When we open these again, may they find us all in good health.”  Mama paused for moment and said, quietly, “Amen.”

Oh y’all.

I haven’t gone through all the decorations yet.  I don’t want to rush it.  Looking through these treasures and remembering is something to be savored.  I want to hear the stories of my children and their memories as we take each ornament or decoration out of its keeping place.  But Santa?  Oh he is already out.  It was time.

As I look and remember Mama’s hands carefully, and with a deftness that I think she might have been born with, placing each piece where it belonged and had always been placed, my heart breaks.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  We weren’t supposed to be without her right now.  She was supposed to get better.  She had plans.  She told her pastor the day the nightmare of the HospitalStay began that she was going to get better so she could help in the Food Pantry at Trinity UMC, her church.  Feeding folks was her love language, so yeah–she would have loved that.  She was going to get on a train and go to Virginia to see her grandsons, including the new little one who was born one week after she left us.  She was going to do so many things.  When she got stronger.  And she had faith that she would.

I don’t even know.

Except that life is so tragically fragile.

Tonight a young woman, who was one of the first to friend Aub at Wesleyan during a time when she was struggling, is lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life.  None of this makes sense.  She’s too young.  It shouldn’t happen this way.  She too has plans.  She should not be fighting for her life tonight.  She should be laughing with friends and worrying over finals.  She should be contemplating Christmas plans and anticipating next semester’s classes and dreaming about life after graduation in 18 months.  Anything but this.

I can’t make sense of it.   I don’t know this young woman except through the encouragement she gave my daughter in messages and the stories my Aub has told me.  But I know with a Mama’s heart that she is someone special.  You love my baby, you got my heart.  And she has it.

I don’t know if my faith can take this.  I don’t know what to do with the sheer craziness of it.  There’s no way to make this make sense.

Something caught my eye at Mama’s this evening as I was getting ready to go.  On the chair next to where she sat at her counter to do her crossword puzzles were her devotionals.  The past two years I got her the Guideposts (large print–I’m so there myself) daily devotions book for Christmas.  She enjoyed it in 2012 and told me so–I was glad, as I’d just taken a chance with that gift.  So last Christmas it was a repeat.  She had both on her stool and her Upper Room devotional from church.  The thing that I noticed for the first time in ten months is that both of the current books were open to January 18.  Mama went in the hospital on the afternoon of the 17th.  She was so very sick and in tremendous pain, yet she found the wherewithal to sit and read the day’s words in each book.

The page marked with one of Mama's Mary Engelbreit page-a-day calendar pages.  January 18.
The page marked with one of Mama’s Mary Engelbreit page-a-day calendar pages. January 18.

Oh Mama.

Thank you for that reminder.  That when the world doesn’t make sense, you still keep on keeping on.  Keeping the faith.  Even in the midst of pain and heartbreak.  Run the race.  Do the do.

But still.

I’m just not sure if I can.  She was one of the strongest people I know.  And she left some strong ones here to look after me and all of us young’uns, but I just don’t know how strong I can be.

It frustrated her when I was so angry after Daddy died.  She wanted me to find my way back to faith and hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love…..

And in a lot of ways I did.  Until she had to suffer as she did, when she had such great plans.  And not for her own selfish needs but for others.  And then my friend lost his battle with the demon alcohol and still struggles everyday, living wherever he can until the police give him a ticket and “shoo” him away.  And then another person we cared about lost his battle and his life to that same demon.  And a sweet woman, a new friend, is in and out of the hospital with seizures and heart problems and she has no insurance and she too is struggling.  And now a young woman with the best of life yet to come lies fighting what some have already said is a losing battle.

I’m tired of lost battles.  Seriously.  Enough is enough.

So tonight as I seek comfort and reassurance, I look over at my old friend, our Santa from my days of growing up, his first time in thirty-six years away from Blackberry Flats.  I wish I could write a letter to Santa and have faith he would respond.  Or say a prayer to God and know it all would all be better, be fixed.

Unfortunately, I know better.  I know that prayers don’t always get answered the way we hope, despite people all over praying for the same thing.  I know that good people have horrible things happen to them, and it makes no sense.  I know that some people who do wrong are never held accountable.  And I know that good people struggle and sometimes they die too soon and it just makes no sense.

Mama knew all of that too.  I don’t know anything that she wasn’t already aware of.  And yet, a marker is in her devotional for January 18.

She never got to read it.

If that’s not faith, I don’t know what is.

Hey Santa.  It’s been a while.  A lot has changed while you were sleeping.  Welcome to your new home.  I hope you like this spot.  Doesn’t have to be permanent, we can work something else out if you’d prefer.   So yessir, here’s the thing.  This year, I’d like for healing to happen for these folks I care about and the ones I don’t even know.  But if that’s not possible, could you please give me faith like my Mama’s?  You know what?  That’s something else that doesn’t make sense.  Her faith.  She was hurt by people who should have fought anyone who tried to hurt her, but they didn’t.  And yet, she kept the faith.  And just about threatened to send me to find my own switch if I didn’t get mine back in order.  Well, Santa, here we are, and I’m trying to find my way without her.  And I’m hurting.  My faith has taken a baseball bat up the middle and it’s shattered.  I got little to nothing.  So please, please, could you send me some?  I don’t really know what it will look like or what to expect, I just know I will know it when I have it, when I see it, when I feel it.  When I see through it, with it.  To look through the eyes of faith like my Mama did.  That’s what I wish for.  Thank you, Santa, for always listening to my wants and wishes.  I hope you’ll be happy here.  Love always, Tara

January 18.  My Mama had faith. It’s all I can hold on to for now.  And wrap my heart around it and hold on tight.


Dear friends and readers, if you have a moment and you are a praying person, could you please pray for sweet K, my daughter’s friend, and her family?  If you are not, would you please keep them in your thoughts and hearts?  We don’t know what the future holds, but peace and comfort are pretty good things to wish for no matter what.  Thank you and love to all. 

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