If you know my story, then you’ll know why this season is so full of polar opposites. Deep joy and deep grief. Working out the past and looking to the future. Passionate gratitude and desperate loss of control. The list goes on.
Starting around the week of Thanksgiving, it was like a big giant cloud started to setting in around me. Before me was the seemingly impossible task of openly walking though the third anniversary of Dave’s death, while being married. About a tenth of me wanted to just skip right into the middle of January. But then I’d have to skip Christmas and I am so desperately grateful for Jesus coming to earth, that I couldn’t imagine missing the anticipation of December 25th.
With this haze, a couple of hard conversations between Tony and me ensued. Along with that haze, came a picture of Indian Jones, where he has to cross a deep canyon by just taking a step into thin air and as he takes that step of faith, a firm bridge appears. I just knew that God would make a way through this season. I’ve gotta tell you, though, it didn’t feel like a sturdy rock bridge. It felt like a stringy rope bridge with a lot of missing planks.
The day we decorated for Christmas is a good example of riding the Bipolar Express. All seven of us had a great time picking out a tree to decorate. We brought the tree home, put on some Christmas music, strung on some lights, and opened up the first box of Christmas decorations. Right on top was the box of ornaments, many of which were Dave’s that his mom collected for him through his childhood.
Here we go. How do I handle this? How do I still honor Dave and give him space in our family, while trying to make new traditions and form a new family? What is the balance to strike here? Who can do this well? All of the music in the background seemed to change to a minor key. So, we divided up all of Dave’s ornaments between Leah, Macie and Spencer and they chose a couple of their favorites to put on the tree. That seemed to be a decent compromise? However, when it was bedtime that night, tears for Dave were being caught in Spencer’s pillow. And that was not the only time that Spencer has found himself in a wave of grief this season. There are no compromises that can fix those tears. They just are. Then they pass.
Next thing you know, we are having the best day our family of seven has ever had. It was just a regular day, but it was filled with laughter, decorating cookies, goofing around, and the house just felt so full, in every sense of the word.
Then there were talks of December 21st (the anniversary of Dave’s death). How I will handle that? Will Tony and Braden and Evan be a part of it? Will it just be Spencer, Leah and Macie and me? I think as time passes these questions will feel less complicated, but for now . . . it is new territory. In the end, it was just me and the Aldridge kids going to the Broadmoor to see the giant gingerbread house, get a chocolate from the candy shop and read memories of Dave that people wrote at his funeral. (Thanks to all of you who wrote a little something. We loved reading your memories of him). It was more of a rich night, than a sad night, for which I was very grateful. Going to the Broadmoor at Christmas time was a tradition that Dave started a couple years before he died. Sidebar. The night after he died, we went to the Broadmoor. Of course, I was insane at that point and had not one idea what I was doing and neither did anybody else, for that matter. That night, it felt so important for me to carry on this tradition and to try and make life as normal as possible. I also remember my car keys being taken away from me that night after trying to find my way from my house to the Broadmoor. I think I made a 15 minute trip into a 45 minute trip. I just COULD NOT remember to turn! It is somehow kinda funny now, but it sure wasn’t then.
Then the actual day of the 21st came and it was beautiful. It was a great day. And phew . . . we made it past that. However, there were days that followed that were so difficult. It’s like we all held our feelings together leading up to the 21st, but afterwards, they just began to leak out. Of course, this is right over Christmas, where expectations are high on everyones part and traditions are held tightly, and emotions just seem to take on a life of their own . . . at least for me.
Needless to say, the bipolar express was chugging along. Some amazing moments, some deep hurts, some treasured memories, laughter, tears, cousins, ice skating, arguing, grandparents, plane rides, Radio City Music Hall, chickens, great food, Christmas Eve service and CHRISTMAS.
And then. . . . . . . . . . . . . . the space after Christmas, with no distractions, and no anticipation and no plans and no work. That was a hard week. Ugh!
It was actual Christmas that was keeping me sane Through this entire season (which is debatable I’m sure). Christmas means soooooooo much more, when life feels messy. Jesus wasn’t born to make sure the perfect in life, stays perfect. I kept going back to this blog post from my most, very, especially, scholarly, intelligent, gentle and thoughtful friend (not that the rest of you aren’t all those things). It is definitely worth a read, as well as the one before it. They both carried me through this season. I know I should at least summarize them, so here it goes. The fullness in a masterpiece is the beauty and the ugly all in the same frame and Jesus came to earth to die and rise again, in order to bring that fullness to completion. Boom – there you have it. Guess you don’t need to read those. Just kidding . . . you really should, especially if you are facing difficult times.
So, now on to the New Year. As everyone knows, the calendar flipping a page, doesn’t mean that everything is all different now. However, I feel like we’ve gotten off the bipolar express and the sense I have for this new year, is that it will be a year of LEARNING. I have a strange thirst to learn right now and I think I rather like it!
Christina’s Take :
Bipolar express…it paints such a good picture. I felt it, too, when I would find time with you. Some moments so perfectly “Christmas” and others that were more bumpy than that.
I think it’s a gracious mercy-thing that we don’t know the future. Being centered and present in the “now” is the big work. Letting tomorrow take care of itself because it has enough troubles of its own…isn’t easy!
I love hearing your most beautiful heart in this season.
This one is most definitely all the feels. I suppose that’s the inherent definition of the “bipolar express.” You have lots of different people feeling lots of different things at any given moment. May God’s grace continue to guide you as you row in these murky waters. However, you said it best, Holly! This is a new year. While we all are still emotional human beings we can hold on to hope because Jesus is on the throne. He wasn’t born to “make sure the perfect in life stays perfect” rather He came to give us joy and life abundant — in spite of and in the midst of whatever journey our trains are on.