Gathering in Gratitude and Grief

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Clicking upon the iCal app on my phone this morning to add an appointment to my calendar I realized that Thanksgiving is a week away and Christmas is less than six weeks away!  A small wave of panic hit as I realized that the holiday season, which I knew all along was approaching, is rapidly descending upon us.

My mind dispersed in a thousand directions as I thought about all the gifts I hadn’t yet bought, the Christmas parties there were to attend, our house to decorate and travel plans that still needed to be finalized.  It feels like there is already so much to do and so little time it until Christmas will be here.

Reeling in my mind from the thousands of directions it had run in, I realized that tiny wave of panic I felt and how it is not what I want to feel perpetually this holiday season.

Knowing that if I didn’t want to slip into the franticness of the season I would have to be intentional about it, I began to think about what I wanted this season to be characterized by instead. That’s when that deep sense of gratitude filled my soul and that all-too-familiar wave of grief washed over.

In a season marked by gratitude and celebration, I was struck by the irony of how much loss and grief many of us are carrying into this season.

There have been losses this year that we are all still reeling from and grieving.

We’ve lost friends and colleagues. We’ve seen adoptions fall through and friends lose their unborn babies. 

For some the loss this season is acute and for others it’s more of a peripheral loss.  

With the losses that we bring into this season, with grief that still lingers, stuff like decorating your house with Christmas lights and making sure your presents are wrapped to Pinterest perfection seem small and less important.

But what does seem important, what feels more important is gathering together.

Whether in gratitude that we feel abundantly, the grief that weights on our hearts, or in a strange mixture of both, gathering feels important.

This season it feels especially important to gather amidst our grief and gratitude that are mingled together. 

This season our home will probably not look like the holiday edition of Garden & Gun or Southern Living and that’s ok because it will instead be filled with people we dearly love, who have gathered there amidst their grief and gratitude.

The presents under our tree will most definitely not be wrapped in hand-printed wrapping paper tied up with a sprig of mistletoe but my husband and I will gather in our living room, curl up under a quilt together to watch the advent candles flicker and the soft dim lights on the tree fill the room and that seems more important.

Likely I will not be able to perfectly execute all the savory dishes I have pinned with hopes to arrive at Christmas parties with something made from scratch, but I’ll be there at those parties, maybe with something halfway homemade or maybe with something store bought, but that doesn’t really seem to matter.

What matters is gathering. 

Gathering out of gratitude or gathering in spite of grief.

And if it’s the strange mix of both, gather anyways because there is something beautiful and sacred that happens when both intermingle and our gathering is out of gratitude and grief.