Advent Continues

We have traveled many kilometers in the last week, changing “homes,” time zones, and garbage disposal instructions.

We have been able to light our advent candles most nights, trying to explain our unconventional advent rituals to the various people we are sharing them with.  The term advent “wreath” doesn’t quite apply: last year we had an advent raft due to the overflow of bugs in the greenery we tried to build our wreath with.  This year we have an advent tray, so we aren’t leaving bits of the wreath all over as we move with it.

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We are appreciating our advent calendar so much.  I’ve spoken a few times about how having others grieve with us mysteriously eases the burden for us.  When Elizabeth put together the calendar, she spoke of how hard it was for her emotionally.  Working on it, and receiving (e)mail kept our loss in front of her in a more constant way than it had been.  She said that she realized that this was what our days are like.  Her willingness to prepare this despite the immediacy of the grief has allowed us to look forward with anticipation to some unknown good surprise each day.  Some ways of carrying this grief with us are tangible.

As we open our notes and gifts, most days your words, kindness, and creativity have brought tears to our eyes.  It has been another illustration to us of the way that we think and grieve differently.  For me, the hard part was thinking about it and preparing for it.  Once we were moving towards a good solution, I was content.  I was prepared to participate and enjoy it.  For Mike it was different, he wasn’t spending much time thinking ahead about it.  As we opened our packages on the first Sunday of advent, Mike collapsed into tears.  He said two very true things:

She should be here with us, opening her books.

And very shortly after that, “We have such good friends.

 

 

Your kindness, generosity, and thoughtfulness continue to give us the courage not to shrink from things that are hard – to celebrate what we had, to acknowledge what we are missing, and to remember and recognize what is good about our life.

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My bad. (sorrynotreallysorry)

In my defense, I didn’t really realize what I was asking of you.

I was talking with a friend the other day, and she was trying to get an idea of what kind of gifts we might like for the advent calendar.  She is a thoughtful, articulate person, so I was confused, and told her, “no, no, we just want you to use some words, you don’t need to do anything that extravagant!”

I know that there are people who just like to give gifts, so I expected that a few people would want to send us something, but I was surprised at the number of people who did.  I thought I had asked a simple thing – that wouldn’t require any cost, or even much time.  No work beyond a few minutes thinking (less if you have foot-in-mouth syndrome like me) and a quick email.  Simple.  Nearly effortless.

But as I talked with my friend, I remembered how hard words are.

Last year, my friend’s baby died.  I did what I knew to support and love her (and talked with her about how she thought we could help), which mostly meant taking Beatrix and going to spend time with her most days.  But then I was leaving the country for nearly 2 months, and I felt like I was abandoning her in her time of need.  So I decided to make her a “calendar” of sorts, with something from me each day we were gone.  Some days it was presents (here are some minutes for your phone; today is market day, buy cheese on me this week; etc.).  Those days were easy.  I also asked some of our mutual friends to write her notes for some days, and those days were easy for me, too.  Most days I wrote notes, and those were so much harder.  Anything I tried to write that would actually be encouraging and loving, felt so trite, and I thought I had no right to say those things to her.  But anything I wrote that didn’t seem to speak to her grieving situation felt shallow and pointless.  It made me feel so vulnerable, and afraid – because I desperately wanted to encourage and love her – but it was only by doing it that I could know if it would actually be any good.

Had I remembered that, I never would have dared to ask you to contribute to our Advent.

(I’m glad I forgot, because it looks like you have responded to the occasion magnificently.)  Our friend Elizabeth put in a lot of time and emotional work into organizing it, and we are so thankful to her for doing it.

It is set up to be more practical than pretty, because we will be travelling this month – I want to show you, but it doesn’t look that impressive:

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But I did sneak a picture, without peeking, while Elizabeth was doing the final organizing, and I think that is a much better visual:P1060387

 

Thank you for your courage.  Thank you for taking this thing I was dreading it and making it something I am really excited about and looking forward to.

Winter is coming.

And so is He.