Thanksgiving is the official trigger that starts the holiday season. "Home Alone," the Grinch and that dreaded Elf on the Shelf are back. Thanksgiving prompts you to sign your cards, wrap your gifts and sing loud, "Joy to the world."
Thanksgiving was definitely a trigger for me.
Last year I shared Thanksgiving with my husband, just the two of us. Randy was about to finish a tour of radiation duty at the cancer center. His hair fell out and he moved a bit slower, so his children wisely decided to stay away in an effort to protect their father from any exposure to a virus no one wants.
So, for the first time ever, Randy and I had Thanksgiving dinner alone. We played old music, ate turkey and Randy watched as I put up our Christmas tree. The kids called, we had pie, and Randy fell asleep in his recliner.
I was so thankful.
A week later, after finishing his last treatment, Randy was admitted to the hospital following his doctor’s concerns and a positive COVID test. Of course, I couldn’t stay with him or visit him. Instead, separated from my husband and quarantined alone, I sent out Christmas cards signed with both of our names. I wrapped Randy’s gifts, the ones I’d hidden under the bed, and then played holiday music while I stacked them under the tree. Each night, I went to sleep alone with my phone gripped in my hand and a prayer on my lips.
Was anyone listening?
After Thanksgiving but before Christmas, Randy died in a crowded wing of a COVID ICU. I said my goodbyes to my husband wearing gloves, booties, a double face mask and layers of protective scrubs and tears. The nurses could barely look us in the eyes because they were weary, so very weary.
I know how that feels.
Thankfully, this Thanksgiving marked the last of the first holidays without my husband. But even though this Christmas will officially be the second without Randy, for me it will feel like the first. Last year, Christmas came and went in a fog and I don’t remember much about it.
I don’t remember what happened to Randy’s presents under the tree.
Despite a full table, this Thanksgiving brought those dark days back to me. I tried to focus on the love and life around me, but kept falling back into the memories of last year’s holiday season. When I lost my husband, I also lost my holiday joy. I missed letters to Santa, I missed the fudge, I missed the merry and bright.
Now, I want to get it back.
I want my love for the holidays back, but I need help. I pray each of you embraces this holiday season and doesn't take your normal for granted. Turn your phones off, lay your politics down and leave your opinions behind — if just for a little while.
There are so many who carry a different load, a burden made heavier by the holidays. Reach out, be kind, act small with small acts of goodness. Let each of us enter the season with a light heart and leave with a full one. Love in the open, love from afar, love the ones you are with.
Love this holiday season like it just might be your last.
The blurred days after my husband’s death still seem so clear to me. I need a fresh reason, a new season to refuel my faith and my joy in tinsel and lighted trees. If you can do this, I can too. So please, dear readers, be nice and not naughty.
Offer words of cheer to both strangers and loved ones alike to help spread the notion that there is good in the world. And hope, such hope! Be patient, be thoughtful and purposeful while you fill your world with merry and bright.
We all could use a little merry and bright.
You can reach Lorry at Lorrysstorys@gmail.com.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Storytime: Merry and bright