Holidays hard for those who have lost loved ones

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Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

I enjoy listening to Andy Williams sing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” maybe because I think it is, too.

The children are so adorable in their church and school programs. They “try” to be good as they wait excitedly for Santa. Shoppers are bustling about looking for that special gift. Cookie jars are filled with freshly baked cookies. The trees are trimmed and presents have been wrapped. The spiral ham and Door County Christmas wine have been purchased for Christmas dinner. People are generally in a festive mood, while quietly performing little acts of kindness for others. Yes, a wonderful time of the year!

Another thing I enjoy this time of the year are the delightful Hallmark Christmas movies. Admittedly, a few of them make me cry, but the stories are heart-warming and do not contain violence or inappropriate language. Last night, my hubby and I drove throughout the community appreciating the efforts of so many who have “lit up their neighborhoods.” The decorations are beautiful. Some are simple and some elaborate, all adding to the greatness of the season.

Although this is a most wonderful time of the year, it can also be difficult for those who recently lost a loved one. We miss our loved ones each and every day, but experiencing that first Christmas without them is really hard. I vividly remember the first Christmas without my dad. He passed away the day after Thanksgiving many years ago. It was our family tradition to spend Christmas Eve each year at my mother and dad’s home in Marion. My mother still wanted us to come.

Our loss was recent and feelings still very raw. I remember having mixed feelings. Part of me wanted to go, but I also didn’t know if I had the strength. I had shopped early that year. My dad’s red checkered flannel shirt and Old Spice shaving lotion were wrapped and put away in my dresser drawer.

I remember going upstairs and sitting on our bed crying. I told myself, “Lorna, you can do this. Do it for Mom, do it for the kids, do it for Dad.” We arrived at my mother’s at about the same time my brother Pat, his wife, Rozanne, and their young boys did. We were never a family that hugged, but this year was different. I think we were trying to give one another strength. We had to be strong for the children and for Mom.

My little brother, Joel, was so young to lose his dad. He didn’t have a chance to spend the years with him my older brother and I did, and I felt sad for him, too, but we all made it through dinner. The children chattered away excited about the presents under the tree; they were too young to understand.

I noticed that every now and then, someone would be missing. I quickly realized the adults were taking their turn going into another room to get a hold of their emotions, just as I had done. None of us wanted to break down in front of Mom or the children if we could help it. I noticed Mom was missing for a while, too. She was only 53 and I could only imagine the pain she was feeling, still so young and now a widow.

Before the gift opening, we went to the Christmas Eve candlelight service. Rev. Ohlrogge’s sermon felt like he was talking directly to our family, it was so poignant. He spoke about the joy that would take place in heaven on Christmas morning.

He said we should imagine the sounding of the trumpets and the choir of heavenly angels singing. He talked excitedly about the celebration that would occur in heaven, far exceeding anything we know here on earth. It was so comforting and somehow I felt at peace knowing my dad would be there too celebrating the birth of his Savior.

The words of comfort and hope resonated with me, and I was able to share in the joy of our Savior’s birth knowing Dad was doing the same.

I have shared my personal story because if you are missing someone this year, I hope you will find peace, too, knowing your loved one will be singing with the choir of angels and attending a birthday party this year like none other.

Happy birthday, Jesus. Peace and joy, dear readers. Merry Christmas!

Answer to last week’s question: Franklin Jr. High School was razed in 1997.

This week’s question: Who is the president of the city of Shawano’s Common Council?

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.
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