There have been times over the past few months when I have wondered whether it would be best to just forget the month of December and skip right to January. Thinking about spending the holidays without Ben has been hard. But I have young children and trying to explain another loss to them just didn’t seem worth it, so instead, I sat down and tried to figure out the best ways to honor Ben in everything that we did this month. As my mind ran down the list of how we would spend the holidays if Ben was here I debated whether I wanted to do all those things to honor him or if it would honor him more if I chose to do new things. In the end I realized that most of what Ben loved were things that he would be disappointed if we didn’t continue… and I would be too.
So here is how we spent the month of December trying to honor Ben in ways that would have made him proud:
- I tried to teach my kids the value of giving. Every year since we have been married Ben has spent the month of December finding ways to give and do things for other people. He would leave extra money for tips, send anonymous gift cards and money orders, and would try to do things for people unnoticed. Most years we have adopted a family and tried to give them a Christmas that they would remember for years. So this year the kids and I picked three kids their ages/genders and made a couple of big shopping excursions to provide them with a fantastic Christmas. We prayed for them by name and prayed over their gifts that they would be a blessing. We talked about how Christmas is about so much more than gifts, but that this is one way that we could bless others. And we looked for other ways to bless other people, by surprising them with gift cards, clothes, notes, or just by providing unexpected love in random acts of kindness. It gave me a few moments of joy to do things that Ben would have loved to do, even though it made me miss him even more!
- We whole-heartedly celebrated Hanukkah.We have celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas every year of our married life. Hanukkah for Ben and Christmas for me… on any given year you will find a menorah in the kitchen and a small tree in the living room. We tried not to go overboard with either event but discussed the meaning of each with our children. This year I learned the blessings and the children and I gathered round the table each night to light the candles together. We watched the candles burn down and it reminded me of years past with Ben. I learned more about the meaning behind Hanukkah this year then in the previous decade with Ben, and it made me sad that I didn’t take the time to truly learn about the things that were important to him. But I know he would smile and laugh at my emotion because he loved me anyways.
- We surrounded ourselves with family.In all of our years of marriage, Ben was adamant that time with family and friends was way more important than things. He didn’t care if there were Hanukkah presents or presents under a Christmas tree (in fact he reminded me every year that we didn’t need more stuff to know we were loved). He cared about the time we spent with people that we loved and that we made memories that would last forever. So despite the difficulty of doing things without him, we made it a point to take time to do things with family. He would be proud of the fact that I stuck with the four gifts for Christmas for each of the kids, and I know he would be beyond grateful that his family and mine have surrounded us to spend those special days.
The holidays can be hard without the ones we love, but they don’t have to be faced with dread. And in the end I know that Ben would have been pleased that we enjoyed the time together and that we filled it with blessing other people! “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds,” Psalm 147:3