Twenty-two years ago Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, just like this year. My baby girl was three months and three days old, and she was being baptized at the morning church service.
Christmas Eves at our church then were quite full. The church couldn’t be decorated until after service on the fourth Sunday of Advent, which Christmas Eve was that year. After church, folks ran home, changed clothes, and then came back to decorate or “green the church.” Another quick trip home and then we were back for a Wassail party (not a fan myself) and Covered Dish Supper. Caroling was after, and then midnight service began at 11:30. A beautiful day filled with joy and being together.
During the morning service, the two dear friends we had asked to be Auburn’s godparents stood up next to us and promised to love her and help teach her right from wrong, kindness from cruelty, caring from apathy. Auburn’s godfather wasn’t yet married to the woman who had come with him that morning, but I know she must have promised all of those things too, sitting in the pew, watching as these bonds were formed.
I know this because that day she also became Auburn’s godmother. In every sense of the word.
Over the years she has written notes of encouragement, given hugs of comfort, listened to my girl (and me), and laughed alongside us–often helping us to find the humor in situations. She loved with a passion that one isn’t always lucky enough to come across. Bless her, as my sister Mess Cat says, “She was larger than life.”
This past week, this dear soul left this world, ending her fight with cancer. Amidst people who knew and loved her, her husband, and her son, we said goodbye on Thursday, gathered around the tent as the cold wind whipped around us. Her husband got up and shared through his tears the joy and love she gave them all these years. It was a time of celebrating and remembering one who loved and was loved with great adoration.
Last weekend my friend sat and told me and Auburn how when he first met his wife, she had said, moving things out of the seat next to her, “You just come sit right here beside me,” with her lovely Southern drawl. Bless her, that’s who she has always been–welcoming, comforting, hospitable, and seemingly on the verge of a joy-filled laugh at any given time.
Today, as my littles have the wiggles and giggles and excitement abounds, I remember my friend–this dear woman who never missed an opportunity to make me, Auburn, or anyone else feel welcome and important. I remember her standing by her husband twenty-two years ago today, holding my baby girl, and smiling with all her heart with joy. It was a precious day. I am thankful she was there.
As I am thankful she has been there for so much of our journey.
My heart is mindful of the ones who knew and loved her best–her husband, her son, her sister, her mother–and I know that in great contrast to the holiday music, bright lights, light-hearted movies, and cheerful greetings everywhere we go, they are bathed in the darkness of grief and pain and loss. I am mindful of others who will spend this holiday missing someone they hold dear, for whom Christmas does not evoke visions of sugarplums dancing.
And I remember my sweet friend’s words, “Come sit here right beside me.” If you are bathed in darkness just now, I hope that you will hear these words from someone. I’m here, as are many others who have walked the path you are on, and we understand the darkness. Come sit by us.
Or perhaps you are like my friend and could welcome someone who needs to hear those words. They are indeed words that can change a life.
Wishing you all much love and light in the darkness, as the world celebrates glad tidings of Joy and Good News. As I remember the baby from 22 years ago whom I held close as I sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” walking across the churchyard in the dark, I give thanks for 22 years of wonderful memories. Time passes way too quickly, so may you all find time to make merry memories to recall and enjoy in the years to come.
Love to all.