I wrote this some time ago, but I am publishing it now as it fits this season.
The first Christmas after we were married we went to my in-laws. This was the last Christmas before my husband was an ordained pastor, which meant it was the last Christmas we could be away from home on Christmas Day.
I remember that Christmas like it was yesterday even though it was 13 years ago. I don’t have any brothers and my husband doesn’t have any sisters, so it was a learning experience for all of us for me to be the only female among the “kids” that were home that year.
I also remember going to the cemetery that Christmas. Ram and his younger brother shoveled a pathway in the snow so we could reach his older brother’s grave. We even set the camera to take a family photo at the cemetery. We had no idea then that the following Christmas Ram’s younger brother would also have a gravestone marking his place.
I have a little advice to share that I have learned in my 14 years of marriage.
1. Don’t take your family for granted. I have so many friends that can’t stand their MIL or some other family member. They dread family visits. I am blessed that I have so much in common with my MIL (such as we both had 3 sons). We just don’t know when our last Christmas will be with the family members that we spend this Christmas. Thank God for your family even if they drive you crazy some times.
2. Don’t leave on bad terms. Because of what I wrote in #1, if you have an argument or say something you shouldn’t have said when you are with family, please ask for forgiveness before you leave (or your family members leave). Looking back I wish I would have played a few more card games and spent a little more time with my geeky brother-in-law that only Christmas that we spent together.
3. Take care of necessary business now. We don’t know when our last Christmas will be. Are your children baptized? Have you written a Will? Do you have life insurance? Ram and I updated our Will last summer. If you can't do this business during this busy season, schedule time to do it in January.
4. If you are unable to spend holidays with your family, try to do traditions you can do long distance. Recently we have been unable to spend Christmas with anyone on my side of the family. We ship boxes with presents with items we think they would enjoy or they need. We talk on the phone with them. Some years we Skype with them. When we have been unable to spend Christmas with my in-laws, we had crepes and lingonberries at our house just like they had at their house. I know of families that celebrate Christmas in July when everyone is able to get home.
5. If you are grieving for a family member, do the holiday traditions that you want to do and remember that you don’t have to do the ones that are too difficult for you. Ram’s family still hangs 5 stockings on the fireplace. I have purchased ornaments to remember our miscarried babies, but I just can’t remove them from the boxes and hang them on the tree yet.
6. Talk to your children about your family members that have gone to heaven before us. My children will never know these two uncles. Even though it often brings tears, we try to talk about them and share pictures and family stories with our children. They should know about these family members even though they never met them.
7. Attend church regularly. When you are at the communion rail you will be with your loved ones and the whole company of heaven.
8. Treasure the people you do spend holidays with. Whether you spend the holidays with a whole bunch of people, just your spouse, or a few friends, enjoy it. Try not to be so busy with cooking and dishes and decorations to spend time with those people. You won’t regret sitting and chatting with them while you are together!