Leaning into Loss at Christmas

Thomas O'Malley

We had an accident on the farm this morning.

I started the van a bit early in order to warm it up and brush the snow off. My husband had warned me that the roads were slippery and to take extra time.

The kids went running and laughing out into the snow, followed by their furry array of outdoor feline companions. I ushered everyone into the van, did buckles, and shifted into reverse.

I didn’t see Thomas O’Malley, our much-beloved kitten.

***

We all cried on the way to school except for Griffin, who just kept repeating, “it’s okay Sissies, it’s okay.”

We cancelled our plans for the gym and a stop at a friend’s house in lieu of Tommy and came home to figure out next steps. The girls ran in and started drawing “I love you Thomas” cards at the kitchen table. I took a box out of the recycling and gently put our little friend inside.

All I could hear was Ellie’s voice from earlier. “Mom, I don’t want things like this to happen at Christmas.”

Me either, sweet girl. Me either.

Because while I know that we are mourning a pet, others are mourning a parent, or a sibling, or a child.  Others are separated from those they love, physically or emotionally. Still others find themselves mired in worry, turning over anxieties like snowflakes in the wind.

We all carry deep wounds, some fresh, some faded.

And this is precisely why Christmas comes.

Trappings and traditions aside, Christmas was the ultimate act of giving on behalf of a Father who wanted to ease the suffering of his children.

God saw our pain. Our sadness. Our hurt. Our darkness.

And mystery of all mysteries, he knew that sending Jesus could offer us peace if we chose to know his heart. Peace that could sit quietly beside us in our grief. Peace that could settle over our shoulders after we wiped off our faces.

Loss cannot be prevented. That is the nature of our humanity.

But it doesn’t have to overtake us.

The hope that Jesus offers reaches into every part of our lives. It is the calming antidote to our anxiety, the presence in our despair, the steadfastness in our seasons of change.

And maybe He came in the form of an ordinary-looking baby born in a barn to remind us that He is holy enough to set His holiness aside and meet us where we are. In our looming bills and imperfect gifts and broken cookies and car repairs. In our eye bags and wrinkles and ill-fitting clothes. In our coughs and aches and hidden pains.

Humanity hurts.

But it doesn’t have to remain in hurt forever.

***

Soon we will have a memorial for our kitten. There will be a homemade cross and a pile of crayoned pictures scrawled on blank sheets of 8×12 office paper. We will say thank you to Jesus for sharing Thomas with us for a few months, and we will cry because we won’t ever see him putting his paws up on the window screen begging to be let in again. And then someone will want a snack. Someone will holler that the bathroom needs more toilet paper.

Life will go on, and we will go with it, secure because of a divine gift we didn’t ask for – because on our own, we never would have thought such a thing would be possible.

Hope.

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