Harlynn & the Holidays

Though 2020 has had (so very) many of its own conflicting experiences to reconcile with, there is yet another situation that seems both foreign and familiar to me.

I’m excited for Christmas. I’ve been enjoying the month of December. Yet even in the happiness and joy surrounding the holiday season, grief is lurking in the outskirts of my daily events, waiting for its selected opportunity to wrestle me to tears.

It’s been seven years since Harlynn died. This will be our eighth Christmas without her here. While the grief may not hit as powerfully as it once did, the punches it throws are still painful.

And Christmas this year… Christmas this year is so very different from any I’ve experienced previously.

This year we’re in a new home. A new state. A new routine. This Christmas, I don’t have a support group or a Harlynn’s Heart crafting event. This year I can’t pull into Riverside Cemetery and sit at her spot.

While she feels further away than before, the grief lingers nearer, just beneath the surface. A song, a sight, even a familiar scent, can bring the tears to spilling over.

For the first several years, the Christmas story was painful for me. A celebration of the birth of a baby. A baby who was protected and grew into the Man who would save the world.

…but my baby died.

For those years I specifically ached for those parents of sons Herod ordered killed, in a futile effort to thwart the plans of God. I knew what it was to grieve an unjust death of a child you longed and prayed for.

And while the grief still resides within, and I never know when or how it will make its presence known, I do have hope. I do love and cherish the story of Christ’s birth. I am grateful that while God’s people longed for a leader to wipe out the rule of Rome, He provided One who must be nurtured and cared for before the utmost nurture and care could be displayed for us.

So in church, when “Silent Night” is sung, I cry. That song has always been a favorite of mine, and maybe that’s why I’m so moved by the words and the melody.

And these years later, the messy middle is still a part of my journey. The worlds of worship and grief no longer collide in violent opposition, but combine in a complicated dance, both vying for the lead.

I’m eternally grateful for the birth of our Savior. I’m forever thankful He died on the cross to free me from sin. I’m filled with hope of seeing Him – and Harlynn – in eternal glory one day.

But sometimes I still cry. Sometimes I still miss our baby girl. Sometimes the holidays are still challenging.

Even while it is the most wonderful time of the year, it isn’t. So long as those two realities coexist, I suppose the holiday season will always be complicated for me. Complicated, but not unnavigable. Foreign, yet so familiar.

Merry Christmas, sweet girl. We love you – every moment of every day.

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