I walked into a large department store around the middle of November, and what did I hear…  Jingle Bells!  And, I do mean bells ringing, not the song.  I stopped mid-step and burst into tears because this holiday season, I and my family will pass through these days without our third of four sons who died suddenly in late August.  I knew the holidays were going to be tough… Hearing those unexpected Christmas bells caught me off guard.  WHAM!  It was a sock in the mid-section.  Oh, I got my act together again quickly …  I did what all other people do, who lose someone and feel so very sad from the loss; I found my Saturday face and stepped back into the day.  But though successfully compartmentalized, all that pain was just sitting there waiting to come out.

Pain after losing a loved one is very much like having an infection of the body; only it’s your soul that is not doing so well.  We have to get rid of that pain, that infection (if you will).  Pain leaves by purging; and, while crying is certainly a part of that, getting our minds on other people as we help them through the day, is equally important.  Hear’s what I mean…

I carried that darn pain all the way through Thanksgiving:  The Saturday face, the regular schedule and soldiering on.  And then, it came time to put out the Christmas decor.  Ouch!  I began to lay it all out. Every piece of it made me see my son and hear his laughter and joy for the season.  There he was in the memories of many Christmas holidays we’d had together, the many church masses all together…  It was awful because his absence was so evident in the thought that all this was over.  I just kept ending up a bundle of tears and sadness.  I don’t think I’d have survived the day without being able to read my Bible (this is always my friend).  And I lay in my bed that night a bundle of pain, longing for the night to swallow me in sleep.  Sleep came at last, and then… Then came Black Friday… Black Friday is the one part of the holiday season I do NOT like, and neither did my son who passed away.  So I stayed away from all the major malls.  Yet I had needs, like gift boxes and wrapping paper, colored lights, tape (You know the drill), so back I went to a store that was close to home where I hoped no one would mow me down or mall me for something in my hand…  And, here comes the good part!

Picture me (or yourself) going up and down the aisles of the store…  LOTS of people there.  We all have our needs and there are things that we all can’t find.  One woman looked particularly lost, so I asked her if I could help.  Turns out I couldn’t, but we had a wonderful conversation and parted with smiles.  I think we both felt better after our encounter.

It does feel good to offer assistance and try to help others.  And, it feels good to smile and visit, even if you’ve never met.  Doesn’t matter if you know each other or not;  you have something in common… You’re both shopping and you both are on a journey through the store.  And, even if you’re not the type of person who’s out-going, it will still feel good to say “Merry Christmas” or “Good Morning” or “Happy Holiday”.  People, nearly all people, like to be treated with respect and good nature.  They’ll almost always respond to you…  Even if they sound grumpy, they’ll enjoy being seen and knowing they are not invisible to everyone.  And, here’s more good news…

I was in line to pay for my items, and had said hello to the couple in front of me.  This also led to a conversation…  We got pretty comfortable with one another, and I suddenly mentioned to them that our son had died suddenly just three months ago.  The young woman in this couple told me that she knew this pain of losing a child… Not herself, but through her grandmother, who had lost a son and a daughter-in-law because someone broke into their home and murdered them!  This young woman remarked that her grandmother had such a terrible time getting passed this incident (who wouldn’t, right?), until she her priest came to visit and told her that those who die like that surely go straight to the arms of God.  That helped her grandmothers.  At the close of her story, my new friend said she was sorry for my grief and hoped that I would have a good Christmas…  We hugged and I recall thinking again, as I did right after our son passed, that there are many mothers and fathers who have lost children and I am not the only one.  It isn’t that we have an exclusive club, but that we witness to one another that we CAN get through this abrupt and pain filled change.  We can. And, we do it by reaching out to help others and being forth coming with happiness toward others.

Well, that’s my story and as they say, I’m sticking to it.  I know we every last one of us have painful issues, in these times of hate and violence across the globe.  We can fight back and thrive with kindness, goodness, self-control (when we’re drawn to say something that’s mean-spirited); and we can fight back with gentleness, faithfulness, love, joy, peace and patience.  The gain is in giving… Give and receive.

May your holiday season be filled with all of these blessings, as you give those blessings to others.  Beat pain by helping others, even if it’s just a kind word.


Carolyn Thomas Temple