It was twenty years ago that I faced my first year without my husband, a first for me and my children.  I remember it well, and I remember being surprised at the depth of emotion that welled within me.

I realized in my head that it was just the next day in the calendar, but walking into an uncertain future; my heart wasn’t so sure.  The new year felt daunting and frightening.

I remember well the evening, New Years Eve of 1995.  We were at my parents, my grandmother still alive; and they were singing songs.  I couldn’t sing for my sadness, and was an observer.  Grandma, who rarely was able to communicate fully anymore knew all the words.  Music can do that for people.  And I remember she had whispered, why not me?  At 91, she was quite ready for heaven.

And indeed, the following June, close to her birthday, she slipped away.

And the years too have slipped away, one after another, as they are apt to do.

Two years ago I experienced the first Christmas without my mom, and I think of her every day.  This time of year is especially tender, for she entered fully into the Christmas spirit, and we celebrated together.  Every New Years she would make “New Year’s Cookies”, a deep-fried Mennonite fritter, and just thinking of that brings smells to my nose and a taste to my tongue that is unique to this time of year.

This year, 2015, we said good-bye to several of my hubby’s family, all within months of each other.  Brother Larry died in March after fighting cancer with all his might, our first Christmas without him.  And then their dad died, and an uncle.  A generation now gone.  A new year without them.

There are days when we feel young.  And then there are days, when the waitress slaps down the menu, seniors menu’s conveniently placed on top, and we realize we are becoming the elders.

A New Year is always full of promise.  For us our little grandchildren hold the promise of tomorrow, with their bright and sunny faces.

I am always reminded, especially this time of year, for those who grieve.  For many, this is a first… a first Christmas, a New Year without someone who was deeply loved and who is dearly missed.  And as the sun sets on 2015, and will rise again, some will feel pangs of sadness.

And yet a New Year always comes with a gift of hope.  There is hope of spring, hope of new possibilities, hope of good things to come.  We hold on to the promise we will see our loved ones again.  We can trust in the promise that joy comes after mourning.

I’m always reluctant to say “Happy New Year”.  Like “Merry Christmas” it can have a false jolliness that is not always genuine or felt.  These words run off our tongues like the rote greetings they are, and I sometimes long for old greetings like “Peace and Grace be yours”, or “God be with you”.  True beautiful words of comfort, more easily written than said.

And so, as we enter this New Year, peace and grace be yours, and if you are mourning, may you be comforted.

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