I haven’t made it through the singing of Silent Night at Christmas Eve service since my sister passed away over three years ago. Christmas was her favorite holiday. She would start sending shopping-day countdowns to us in May (if not earlier) every year. I miss those emails desperately. Even though I know the song is coming, and even when I can start signing, I can never finish. That huge lump forms in my throat and my eyes start to burn. I end up mouthing the words because no words will get past that lump. This year was no different. The lights went down. The candles were lit. The music started. I began to sing and then there it was…the lump, the tears forming, the loss of ability to sing, the heart breaking in loss, drowning in memories of past Christmases. I know it isn’t supposed to be a sad song, but it breaks me every single time.
There I stood, choked up, while music poured around me. Then I heard a voice beside me begin singing, and I lost it. Ethan does NOT sing in church. If there’s music, he usually is scrunched into a ball on the pew, hands slapped over his ears until the music stops. But there he stood beside me, singing Silent Night. And then I thought of all those 20 children in Connecticut who would never sing again. The tears rolled down my face even after the song ended. So much joy in hearing my precious boy sing. So much sadness in all that is lost. He sang like it was the most normal thing in the world for him to do. He sang like no one was listening. It was one of those bright moments of sunshine.
I tried to hide the tears and act like everything was normal. If he knew how much his singing moved me, he would never do it again. Grace caught me though, wiping the tears away. I shrugged. Christmas has so much joy in it for our family. Christ was born. We are saved. We are blessed to have a home, food, clothes, and the ability to buy gifts for each other. Ryley came home from the NICU on Christmas Day. There are so many good things for us. But there is also sadness and pain. My sister will never be here again to tell me how many more shopping days I have. She will never share in our celebrations again. Ethan may never sing Silent Night again. For all that, I ache at Christmas-time.
When I said goodbye to Deb, the last thing she told me was to love my babies and enjoy them. When I’m having hard days with Ethan, I can hear her in my head reminding me what she told me. I can hear her tell me to be brave, and to love him, just love him.
I know next Christmas Eve (357 more shopping days), Silent Night will be one of the songs we sing. And I know without a doubt I will cry.