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Surviving Grief at Christmas

I remember thinking that the impossible had happened. Daddy was supposed to live forever. Oh yes, rationally I knew that wasn't possible, but my mind just couldn't imagine a world without daddy in it.

Standing there in the emergency room cubicle, I looked down at the pale, cool body that had been my daddy...a lump of flesh that I had loved so dearly. Just an hour earlier he had asked me if I thought he might be having a heart attack. 'I don't think so,' I responded. 'Atrial fib is not a lethal rhythm.'

Little did I know that an aortic aneurysm was slowly leaking Daddy's lifeblood into his chest cavity.

A technician came into the cubicle to do a 12 lead EKG on Daddy. She told him to lie down as she started unwinding cords. Daddy told her that lying down made his chest hurt. Hospital protocol led the technician to insist that Daddy lie down. So he did. That's when the aorta ruptured. The rosy pink left Daddy's cheeks as they turned the color of bread dough. His lips quivered briefly as he said, 'I'll see you in a little while.'

Four months later Christmas music is blasting from the overhead speakers at the mall. Red, green and white decorations fill the store windows. Shoppers push and shove for last minute bargains. Santa wearily pulls another child onto his lap. Colored lights blink on and off on the tree at the center of the mall.

Don't they know that Daddy is gone? Don't they know that he's the one that always cooked the Christmas ham? How can I put up the Christmas tree if Daddy isn't here to help?

I don't have to. I can do something different this year. This is how I survived Christmas that first year.

I bought a new, beautiful Christmas angel for the top of the tree. It's engraved with Daddy's name. I put one of those long-burning candles on the mantle in his favorite fragrance...vanilla.

I know (not just believe) that Daddy is still with me. His spirit permeates the atmosphere. The living, thinking, loving, remembering part of Daddy can never die and will never leave me. He said, 'I'll see you in a little while.' And he meant it.

I know that I can talk to him and that he can hear me. And if I get still inside, I can hear his responses. Sometimes when I'm not still inside, I can hear his responses.

I know that occasionally I catch a glimpse of Daddy. I can believe that it's really him because it really is him. Only our doubts and skepticism stand between our loved ones and us. They have simply passed through a thin veil between heaven and earth. They can see us and hear us and touch us. Our physical body is a barrier to our being able to perceive them. There is no separation.

In celebration of Daddy's life my family performs acts of charity and kindness. We perform them in Daddy's honor. This is a tradition lost to our modern society. All the prophets of God advocated it. Benevolence brings joy to those beyond the veil and quickens their spiritual growth.

Some of our projects are large; some are small. Each member of the family is consulted from the youngest to the oldest. Sometimes we assist other families with specific needs. Sometimes we volunteer time and energy for community projects like Habitat for Humanity, or a local volunteer fire department's fundraiser. Or we adopt a section of a highway to clean up.

Whatever it might be, we do it as a memorial for Daddy. All the time we are working we talk to Daddy just as if he were working right there beside us...because in reality, he is.

At the end of the project the family gathers to say prayers of gratitude for the opportunity to help others in Daddy's memory. We share stories of how the project affected each of us. We particularly share stories of feeling Daddy's presence. We laugh. We cry. We remember. We love Daddy, each other, and those we have been privileged to help.

Grief turns into joy because we perceive the big picture of an eternal continuum stretching into the future of loved ones assisting one another. We accept the reality of the nearness of our loved ones in heaven. Jesus promised that where He is, Daddy is. Jesus promised that He would be with us always. Therefore, Daddy is with us always.

He's closer than my heartbeat.

Daddy and I wish you and yours a joyous 'Holyday' and a blessed and bountiful New Year.

About the Author:

RobinRenee Bridges has been a chaplain and officer in the Sanctuary for thirty years. She is the author of 'A Bridge of Love between Heaven and Earth: Self-Induced Contact in the Afterlife.'

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