I stood in line at the deli counter last night waiting for my take-out order. As I watched the woman boxing up the chicken, my mind raced. What do I still need to do to get ready? If I do this and that tonight and bake pies after work tomorrow, I should be able to pull off our small Christmas Eve dinner, then wrap presents and bake the sugar cookies that my husband wants and then start the prep for Christmas Day dinner and then go to sleep and wake up Christmas morning. Just like the old days when the kids were young…

It’s our third Christmas without Ben. After doing the bare minimum the last two years and getting away with keeping it simple, I wondered why I was putting myself under so much pressure this year to create at least a small semblance of normalcy for our family. Was I purposely trying to keep busy to keep from going “there” again this year? No, I really want to make things better for Nick and Gina and Ben’s boys and everyone else. That’s why I’m putting so much stress on myself, I thought, and then I heard the words, “I’ll be home for Christmas.”  Oh, no! That dreaded Christmas song again, being piped throughout the store.

I was instantly taken back to my teenage years and the memories that song evokes EVERY time I hear it. I don’t remember all of the details of the day it became etched into my brain as a sad, sad song, but I do remember my mother had been listening to a local radio station. A woman had called into the station after hearing that particular song. She was sobbing hysterically. A loved one (I don’t remember the relationship) had died and she was devastated and distraught. The lyrics “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” had sent this woman into the deepest, darkest pit of her grief. The drama played out over the airwaves as the radio broadcaster talked this woman into not ending her own life. We listened intently for what was, or at least seemed to be, a few hours as the station kept this woman on the air to prevent her from harming herself. I remember that by begging her for more and more information they eventually figured out who she was and had sent help for her. There has never been a time in the 40+ years since then, that I haven’t heard that song and been taken back to that day when I intently listened to the sorrowful cries of that woman who had been left behind when her loved one had died. Cries that I now fully understand.

As I listened to the song while standing at the deli counter, I remembered that woman’s sorrow and was sucker punched by my own sorrow. I wanted to put my hands over my ears to protect my heart. I seriously wanted to cover my ears and run out of the store screaming, “My son is dead! He’ll never be home for Christmas! I can’t stand here, waiting on my chicken like a normal person, cuz I’m going crazy hearing this song during the ‘happiest time of the year’! Forget the chicken!”

“Merry Christmas!” The woman smiled as she handed me my order. “Merry Christmas to you too,” I sincerely replied.

I offer my deepest sympathy and love and compassion to every mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, husband, wife–anyone who is missing their loved one from the deepest, darkest pit of their grief this Christmas! My fervent wish is that some day we’ll all be home for Christmas—together! And until then, for those who are “home” with me now, I’ll do what I can to make it a “know that you are deeply loved by me” Christmas.




  1. Brianne’s last Christmas with us was in 2013. She lived in Boston and was coming with her sister and was so excited to be home. On her facebook page she posted “I’ll be home for Christmas!” That songs breaks my heart all over again. One more week….then, hopefully, the emotions will calm a little, if ever. Mary

  2. It’s our third Christmas without Amy too and I have the day cluttered with distractions. It is always my objective to make my loved ones aware of how deeply they are loved too while I continue to lament the loss of our Amy. Grief ambushes are inevitable over the course of these two days so I will need to breathe and acknowledge my Amy moments which come from a place of deep love and longing. Wishing you and your family peace, Susan.

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