I’ll never forget the Christmas before my son was born. I was about 8 months pregnant and very ready to have my body back. I lumbered around like a bumble-bee and hadn’t seen my feet in months. (My son was breech and the size of a three- month-old, but I didn’t know that at the time.) What I did know was that I wasn’t in charge of my body anymore and to make matters worse, I was on an emotional rollercoaster. It had turned unseasonably cold in the Delta as Christmas drew near and none of my coats fit. My maternity clothes were stretched tight and I couldn’t even tie my own shoes, there was too much baby in the way! Some days I was ready to perform my own delivery and other days I was terrified about the whole idea of giving birth. It was a dreadfully uncomfortable time of waiting for the unknown. I was excited and scared all at the same time.
My first few Christmases as a widow were like that, too. The familiar rituals of the holidays no longer seemed appropriate without my husband and nothing seemed to fit me. I was suspended in a quiet interior space where other people seemed very distant, even when we were in the same room. Sometimes their words seemed slurred or made no sense. My brain couldn’t fully process what had just happened. Carols made me cry. I either had no appetite or ate every cookie and chip in the house. Memories swirled like crazy visions in a carnival mirror. I was trapped in a house of horrors built for one – waiting in the dark for hope to arrive.
I was busy with the real work of widowhood. I was busy giving birth to a new relationship: the one I was forging with myself. It was exciting and scary, all at the same time. I was rediscovering parts of me I had forgotten and making cautious friends with the new wisdom I acquired from death. Just like childbirth, this birthing was both bloody and beautiful. It was filled with pain and joy, all at the same time. With the Holy Spirit as a mid-wife, I gave birth to a new me.
If there’s one thing widows don’t have, it’s delusions about human invincibility. Life forces us to be brave new creatures. We emerge scarred and tested, wise and loving, empathetic and forbearing. Death forces us to confront the last human frontier: our true relationship to ourselves and to God. We are forced onto our knees as we wait in the darkness. From this prayerful position we are able to see by the light of the Christmas star just how God’s hope is given to a weary world. From deep within the darkness, we get it. We finally get it. Life is always being reborn.
So as this Christmas day unfolds, I wish for you the joy of inner rebirth. I wish for you peace within your own heart and memories as sweet as a sugar cookie. Merry Christmas.