Christmas Minus One


Christmas was coming and my heart had great difficulty adjusting to my son being locked away in Rehab on that day. I kept telling myself…

he’s safe, he’s clean, its ok

This rehab didn’t allow visitors and I didn’t like the prospect of not being able to see him for the holiday. Now in my head I know its just a Holiday, but in my heart it’s a Holiday that says “Family” louder then any other Holiday on the Calendar. And this would be the first time ever that I wouldn’t have one of my own around me on this very special day.

The emotions trickled out of my eyes often as Christmas approached. Coworkers and friends were all sharing their family plans, who would be there, whos’ house they would go to and this from one coworker…”oh ya my nephew will be coming home from Iraq but it will be a surprise to his mother”. Inside my heart was about to burst as it filled with sadness. I would smile on the outside as each relished they’re own family’s upcoming gatherings. But by the time I’d make it back to my office those emotions had once again found there way trickling out of my eyes.

I remembered the Christmas one of my sisters was in jail. My mom had such a difficult time, her usually guarded emotional shell cracked and the day was filled with moments of tears, and smiles. Some how she managed to both enjoy the day with the rest of her 5 daughters all the while missing the one. Her Christmas tree that year stayed up till Mid March when my sister finally came home. All of us and our children gathered once again for another Christmas, this one would be just for my sister. Those memories of my mom’s strength and perseverance gave me hope for the same. My mom had endured much with her wayward daughter and here I was living out the same. I prayed often that God would give me the same strength to press on.

Each morning during the few weeks before Christmas in my prayer time as I lifted my son up to God I would ask…

“if its at all possible Lord, make a way where there seems to be no way, let me see him for Christmas”

It still amazes me how tender my God is toward me, my prayer was answered, God did indeed make a way where there seemed to be no way. My son called to tell me, His counselor arranged a family meeting two days before Christmas.

“Mom you can come, we get to have a family meeting, but you have to tell me what your bringing, they have to have a list”

Well that’s not fair, that spoils the surprise of Christmas. You tell your counselor to call me and I’ll give him the list!”

A few hours later the counselor did call and all but a few things on the list of gifts I had bought were allowed, the others would have to wait. I had to pack them in a simple gift bag, no wrapping paper, nothing overly festive. So I unwrapped the gifts and placed them in a plain red gift bag”

The Thursday before Christmas would be the day I would get to see him, and I was thrilled that it would also be a half day at work. I called my daughter who lived in the same town as the Rehab and headed to her house to wait for the appointed time. It thrilled my heart when she asked if she could come with me. Each of my kids have been affected by their brothers life choices, he had hurt each of his sisters and his little brother. So for her to want to come gladdened this mothers heart. She had spent the day making Christmas cookies with her own children, so we packaged up a few and added them to the plain red gift bag.

We drove the few miles to the Rehab and waited in the parking lot for the last few minutes to pass by so we could go in. We chatted about Christmas at her house in just two days as she would be hosting dinner again this year. As the car clock ticked to 4:00PM we grabbed the plain red gift bag and headed for the door. We barely had asked for him when he was there in front of me for the first time in nearly three weeks. I hugged him somehow with out emotions trickling out of my eyes. He was thrilled to see his big sister as well.

Off to a conference room we went, we would have 30 minutes to visit. His counselor discussed his progress and plans for the near future, to move on to a Long Term Facility. Three months of an intense program, then on to a halfway house. My son seemed engaged in the process and was looking forward to what the possibilities would be for his future. He wanted to put drug addiction to death in his life. He didn’t want to live this way ever again. Here it was, God giving me something to hold onto for Christmas, this would be what would get me through the day surrounded by all my family minus one.

The plain red gift bag was lifted to the table, and I must admit there were a few small things in there that weren’t on the list. Like a family picture taken at my grandsons birthday just days before my son entered rehab. And those fresh Christmas cookies. the counselor didn’t bat an eye. As our thirty minutes came to a close I was pretty impressed with myself that I hadn’t let the emotions trickle out my eyes. That is until I stood to hug him good-bye. He must have felt me choking up as he said

oh mom don’t cry

and I choked out

too late“.

A few seconds later he was walking up the long hall with his plain red gift bag and we were heading out the door back to the car.

Christmas morning came and it was filled with the anticipation of an 8 year old who just couldn’t wait to see what was under the tree. Thank you God, thank you for this little man who even though he missed his brother, he just couldn’t hold back the emotions that Christmas invokes. So I grabbed onto his excitement, and to the compassion in the eyes of my daughter and husband and gave it my all. We celebrated Christmas with all the joy we had inside us. His joy. The joy of the Savior who’s birth we celebrated somehow took over where this mothers heart alone could never have celebrated Christmas minus one.

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