Every year, soon after the Christmas lights were switched on in Derry, it was always a treat to head over town after dark with the kids to admire the lights – driving around the streets and gazing in wonder at how different the City Centre suddenly looked.
This year however is so different. I have so much pain in my heart. Everything to do with Christmas just takes me back to this time last year and when our Christmas ended so abruptly on Friday 27th December. The day that resulted in the chimes of Christmas bells being replaced with the chimes of the ICU monitors.
Those monitors to which Leah was attached seemed to alarm constantly – telling me what I didn’t want to hear – that despite the best of medical care – despite every treatment they could think of trying – Leah’s lungs were failing.
This evening I went into the City Centre briefly on my way elsewhere. As soon as I got out of the car I noticed the Christmas lights and a wave of grief swept over me. I was reminded once again of the incompleteness of our family.
I headed into Poundland and quietly sobbed my way round the aisles. I quickly found and paid for the items that I had come for and headed back to the car.
The Christmas lights looked so beautiful. They reminded me of year after year of bringing our children over to see them. I used to be as excited as they were.
When the children were really young, we used to head up the Culmore Road and also go to Hatmore Park, to see some houses that were amazingly decorated like the houses you see in films on TV – it used to be part of our Christmas ritual as a family. Horace used to bring the camcorder in those days, to record the children’s wide-eyed wonder and excitement.
Since Leah died I’ve re watched all our family videos, lingering over precious memories untainted by sorrow. It’s so lovely to have these memories. Every photo, every piece of video footage, is now so very precious.
All I can say is, I’m glad that Miriam and I are being given the opportunity to go to Lapland for the day this December, because otherwise that poor child would be seeing very little “Christmas cheer” from her mother!
I love this song from Michael Card:
Come Lift Up Your Sorrows
If you are wounded, if you are alone,
If you are angry, if your heart is cold as stone,
If you have fallen and if you are weak,
Come find the worth of God
That only the suffering seek.
Come lift up your sorrows
And offer your pain;
Come make a sacrifice
Of all your shame;
There in your wilderness
He’s waiting for you
To worship Him with your wounds,
For He’s wounded too.
He has not stuttered, and He has not lied
When He said, “Come unto me, you’re not disqualified”
When your heavy laden, you may want to depart,
But those who know sorrow are closest to His heart.
In this most Holy Place
He’s made a sacred space
For those who will enter in
And trust to cry out to Him;
You’ll find no curtain there,
No reason left for fear;
There’s perfect freedom here
To weep every unwept tear.