Three years ago, I approached Advent with a feeling of dread. As the world awaited our Savior, my family was preparing to lose a loved one. My grandfather’s health was steadily declining at the age of 89, and I remember visiting him the day after Christmas with a bit of hesitation. I knew this would likely be the last time that I saw him and my whole body ached with grief. All season, I wondered how we could celebrate Christmas knowing what was on the horizon. Less than a month later, he passed away.
The first year following his death, my mother encouraged my siblings and I to each write notes for our grandmother that would be included in an Advent basket. Each note was a memory we shared with our grandparents and was sometimes accompanied by a small gift. That year, our grandmother opened one card or gift a day and even though we couldn’t be there with her, we were still together through these memories and special gifts. We have done this every year that has followed.
In the shadow of a very difficult pastoral month with multiple deaths and hospitalizations, I think back to that year and the few that have followed. I think about the loss that my family prepared for in the midst of Advent celebrations, and I think of the empty space in the years that have followed. I think of my grandmother and the empty chair beside her.
I think about all of those in our lives, all of those in our congregations who have lost someone this year. I think about the emptiness that is only accentuated by the holiday festivities. How as friends and pastors, as the one Body of Christ who we await, can we be with them and help to make that hole a bit smaller this year?
Our Advent basket has become a tradition now, and I think I might gain as much from putting together my pieces as my grandmother does as she opens them. The memories with my grandparents come flooding back and my prayers for my grandmother guide my every step as I consider books and treats to include with my cards. I have found my own healing and my prayer is that the rest of my family has as well.
This holiday season, I encourage each one of us to consider what we can do to be a representation of the One who we await, for those who feel as if they have little to wait for. If the time allows, maybe it is through this Advent calendar of memories and prayers or maybe it is through visits and conversations. Even a phone call to let our friends and family know we are praying for them will help to fill the emptiness just a bit.
Does your congregation or family do anything for those who have lost a loved one during the year?
If you have experienced loss this year, how would you like to hear from your church and family during the holiday season?
Rev. Jordan B. Davis (’14)
Transitional Associate Pastor
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)