Continuation of the book excerpt (part 1 here)
As the world around me laughed and anticipated a joyous Christmas filed with packages and food and family, I wished we could skip from Thanksgiving to the middle of January. I pleaded with God that he direct my steps through this quagmire of sorrow. I listened carefully as Chuck described the first Christmas as a season wrapped in pain, not fancy paper and bows. Blood and death covered that holy season. Eternal life could not come without such anguish.
December 20, 1993. I’m coming apart and I don’t want to. The weekend went remarkably well. I felt almost strange. Mark seemed to be close by. After the wonderful choir cantata, Sean Delaney sheepishly pulled me aside and said, “I don’t want to intrude on your family, but your sister told me to give you this. I’m not sure hwy, but I think it’s a Christmas gift from God for your family.” He handed me a short manuscript, which I tucked into my bag as our family left for a local restaurant. We talked about Mark and laughed teeter tottering between hysteria and calm.
The Christmas story and Chuck’s message overwhelmed me with a new understanding of who you are and what you did at Christmas. I’m trying to focus on the choice Jesus made to be a suffering servant and that what he is asking of us is not more than he himself has done. But the ghost of grief is stalking me every minute, and I am weak in my own strength. I have so much I want to do for my family. I will not let the enemy use Mark’s death to rob us of Christmas. But I don’t know where to begin.
Psalm 86: Give me an undivided heart - where I will not be forever torn between missing Mark and trusting you. Deliver me from the pain of the grave. I have asked you to give me a sign of your goodness, that others will see your glory and come to you. I think Sean’s story is one of those signs.
Christmas was on a Saturday that year. I was almost proud of the emotional control I had – focusing on Christ and the first Christmas – until Wednesday, when it was time to think about decorating the tree. I didn’t think decorating would be a problem. But as I approached the attic, I started to cry. With each box I moved to get tot eh decorations, I cried harder. I found one of the boys’ Star Wars men, and I cried. And then I found the decorations. ON top was Mark’s stocking. When I saw it, I laid my head down on the box and sobbed. Lord, why?
December 22. Chuck told me we don’t need to do this – decorate. But I said, “Yes, we do. I want to recognize Christmas. We dishonor our son if we don’t recognize his Savior’s birth. We have to lean into the pain.” Chuck pulled me down beside him on the sofa and said, “Then just sit here and cry for a while: don’t try to hold it in.” Finally, as he and young Chuck got the tree ready, I sorted through the decorations. I put most of them back. The stocking won’t go even when he found Mark’s picture. This is all surreal. But we’re getting through.
(to be continued)