Hope You’re Rockin’ Around ~ the Christmas tree

J's Biker Jacket

In the new old fashioned way.

When I got up to feed the strays it was 40 degrees in Jacksonville (with a feels like of 38). That’s when Floridians start thinking of wintering in the Caribbean. It had dropped to the mid 30s overnight. It was cold and damp…a breeze coming off the Atlantic and up the St. John’s River. I’m closer to the river than the beach.

I had been meaning to give my late husband Joseph’s biker jacket to Goodwill since I only wore it once last year. That was right before Christmas, when I went to see Deck the Chairs in Jacksonville Beach with my daughter Victoria and Lynn Woods Rix writing as Dalyn Woods. It was cold that night This year, I wanted to let someone get some use out of the jacket, but Joseph had loved it even though he didn’t have a Harley, not even a motor scooter. It made him feel a little like James Dean. I must confess, when I wear it some of that James Dean spirit rubs off on me too. There’s just something about a well-worn, broken in biker jacket.

Joseph passed away on December 8th three years ago. I’m seeing a lot of memes about how to treat a person who is mourning at Christmas. Should you bring up the loved one who is gone? Should you tip-toe around it? If you care for your loved one who is in mourning, they will know you care. You might say the wrong thing. If you’re a believer, you might say, “He/she’s in heaven with Jesus,” when all your loved one wants is for them to be back here, even for a moment. We all say the wrong thing in situations like this. Your loved one knows that. Your loved one has also said the wrong things. It means you’re human.

So, what should you do? What should you say at Christmas to a loved one who’s heart is aching (and mourning goes on for years)? Say, “I love you lots.” Call them, tweet them, private message them, email them, send them cute, light-hearted memes, send them a Christmas card. For a person in mourning, the hours can creep slowly by, feeling empty. Fill some of that empty space up…in a gentle, gentle way saying “I love you.” “I’m thinking of you.” Don’t pressure them to be part of the holly-jolly spirit of Christmas, but leave the door open to them if they’d like to join in. You might be surprised. They might have no place to celebrate and would love to be part of your Christmas.

…casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. ~ Deuteronomy 31:6 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

JDC Xmas 2013-3
Joseph, Christmas morning 2012, before coffee
JDC Waldorf Astoria-Boca
Boca Raton, vacay 2011

Christmas Eve 2018 ~ a merry time after loss

Vicky is doing a “sleeping beauty” this Christmas morning and I’ve been watching the Nashville Christmas Parade, followed by Kathy Lee and Hoda. It’s been a gentle and quiet Christmas morning which will end when Vic wakes up…the quiet part.IMG_2851

We had a sweet and fun Christmas Eve dinner last night at Miller’s Ale House on San Jose Boulevard, JAX. I was surprised at the number of families having their Christmas Eve meal in the restaurant. Many parents came from work, so it makes sense.  They were short staffed and the hostess was rushed but she insisted on taking this photo of us. A transplant from NYC, I’ve come to love and appreciate southern hospitality and warmth. It makes life so much easier.

Last night, the atmosphere hit the right note for us. We laughed and recalled Christmases past, but this time without pain and loss. We lost Joseph Dennis Chillemi, my husband and Vicky’s dad, in December three years ago. The last two Christmases have been bitter sweet for us.

This year, we’re having a merry little Christmas. I think this is the first Christmas since Joseph passed that Vic and I have felt real happiness and delight at Christmas. I’ve had joy in the Lord and peace at Christmas since my husband passed on December 8th three years ago. This year is the first one that I’ve experienced merriment. Yes, it’s turning out to be a truly merry Christmas for me.

For those who have lost a loved one, I know it will be a different Christmas, but I pray that even in that loss, those who mourn can allow the peace of Christmas to comfort.  There is a “spirit of Christmas.” For Christians, this is a deep and profound thing. NonChristians also feel what Christmas cards and media personalities often call ‘the Christmas spirit’. We don’t understand it, but this spirit seems to bring light and cut through the gloom, depression, and darkness globally.

So, even in your loss, I pray you let the true gentle spirit of Christmas wrap you in warmth.  God is with us, even in the deepest darkest valleys. “Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death , Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” [Psalm 23:4]

In our loss, especially at Christmas, the ‘shadow of death’ seems to envelop those who mourn. I had to tell myself for nearly three years, “It’s a shadow.” It’s not as powerful as it seems. It’s not forever. And this is a valley. It’s also not forever.” When I look at that Bible verse in times of sorrow, I think of God’s rod as His power…His power over death. Jesus conquered death. And His staff is like the staff of a shepherd. The Shepherd leads us onward in our sorrow on a journey out of the valley. It is a valley and it is a journey.

I often think, to honor the importance of the life of the loved one we lost, it should take time. It should be a journey. But God wants us to see that the valley has an end. We do come out and away from the shadow of death. And that also honors the life of the one/s we mourn. It also honors God, who wants us to reenter life fully.

And so, I wish you all a very merry Christmas filled with joy and blessings and a healthy and happy new year.

Nativity