A Quiet Christmas Morning: Love, Loss and Continuing Bonds

Anthony, David, Liz McFarlane, Elaine, Vic's mom Virginia and the family dogs

The house is quiet this Christmas morning. A coat of fresh snow decorates the hushed earth. Yesterday, my son David, his fiancé Liz, and their three dogs left for their home in North Carolina. This morning, my other son Anthony caught a flight to California. Vic’s mom Virginia is at her apartment in Ithaca. Willow snoozes on her dog bed beside my desk.

Even though Vic died more than four years ago, our family grieves when we gather together. Vic’s absence fills the house, and we’re still not used to it. David and Anthony miss their dad and Virginia misses her son. I fret that I’ll cry the whole time my family is here, but this year I did better.

For the first time since Vic got sick, I decorated a small tree before everyone arrived. David, Liz, Anthony, and I shared a solstice ritual on Dec. 21. Like last year, we lit a candle for Vic and wept. We lit candles for ourselves with the intention of letting go of something old and tired and inviting something new into our lives. The next few days, we cooked decadent meals, ate too much, saw friends, took walks, and shared gifts. We said “I love you” often and laughed more than we had in a long, long time.

I look forward to the quiet open week between Christmas and New Years. I plan to follow deer tracks in the snow, watch the crimson cardinal at the bird feeder, eat tofu and vegetables, see a few friends, and write.

My new life satisfies me in most ways, but I still need time alone to give Vic a year end report. As Rumi said in the poem I shared last week, “I keep sending news secretly.”

May your day be filled with peace and love.


How do you include those you miss during the holidays? To read about our family solstice ritual, see Solstice Blessings: A Family Ritual of Remembrance and Love.

  1. Blessings of the Christmas season, Elaine. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us. Sending love, Gail

    • Merry Christmas to you, Gail. I hope you’re having a great day with family and your sweet grandson. I took a beautiful walk in a few inches of snow, but sounds like I’ll need snowshoes tomorrow. Today, there were fox tracks everywhere. I’m glad to know they’re in my neighborhood. Happy New Year, too.

  2. I love you and your family, Elaine. Thank you so much for sending me the pictures of our sweet early friendship. It is good to reenter that realm of sweetness. Bring on the light!

    • Thank you, Pat, for loving my family for the last forty years, just like I love yours. Yes, bring on the light! I am digging into a final rewrite of my book, so I need bright illuminating ideas as well as longer days. Blessed Solstice and Happy New Year.

  3. I always enjoy your posts. They inspire me. This is my third Christmas without the love of my life and yes, I still cry….especially on holidays. Thank you for sharing and do enjoy this week ahead…one I also look forward to…solitude and quiet moments.

    • Thank you, Mary. It makes me happy to know my posts are meaningful to you. At Christmas, the huge gap in the family becomes apparent when all of us are together. Yesterday after everyone left, I longed to be loved and seen as Vic saw me. I am still loved as a mother and friend and Vic’s love is still here in an abstract way, but he and I had a partnership and understanding that can’t be replaced.
      I just googled your name and found your reflections. Looks like I need to subscribe before reading. I’ll poke around. Thanks for responding and enjoy the quiet this week. Looks like I will be snowed in for a few days.

  4. The holidays do indeed bring to mind the many goodbyes of our lives and the many treasured love/joy memory jewels as well. I used to dread their annual visitation, but now I also chuckle and grimace wondering what combination of memories will float through our children and grandchildren after Ann and I have moved on !

    • Hello David. LilBit is in Vic’s mom’s arms with his little face looking toward Liz, his favorite person. Virginia looks pretty amazing for a woman who will turn 97 in January, but she’s struggling with balance and blindness. We did well this year and a big part of that was Liz’s sweet Christmas cheer. She’s adds such a good balance to our family. And Ann’s treats added to our festivities, too. I’m not as good as I used to be with these small special holiday touches, so thank you Liz and Ann.

  5. PS. Where’s Lil Bit in the family photo !?

  6. I thought of Vic just this morning when I was putting on my sweats… ‘Fat boy pants’ he used to say… made me laugh. I think I will call them holiday pants.
    This year I decided it was time to overcome my “I cannot bake” rap. I had heard myself say it for years and had finally grown tired of it. I decided to bake 4 different kinds of cookies and a pie. I would bulldoze my way through my resistance and even if they fell flat one by one, I could not say I didn’t try. Lo and behold, they all came out spectacularly. I was slightly horrified at how much sugar, flour and butter I used being kind of a ‘health nut’. I did make one flourless, sugarless cookie as a nod to that self.
    Fortunately they almost all got eaten up by the family and friends who came by over the holiday. The rest I am going to ship off to my mother who… as you might guess also did not bake.
    I both love and don’t love Xmas. So many emotions, so many distances that must be crossed, so much mess.
    In the end after it is all done, and the house is back in order and the quiet descends, I find myself so very grateful it all happened once again.
    Thanks for your reflections Elaine..Love to you and your family.

    • Lauren, I love thinking of you having tea and cookies in your holiday pants. I am learning not to bake. Fortunately Liz’s mom has sent Christmas cookies the last two years, so I take advantage of her generosity. I like having everyone home. It’s good to gather and good to know the days will lengthen. It snowed a foot and a half after everyone left. I stayed home with the driveway unplowed for a few days and spent time in the forest on snowshoes. It’s good to be with everyone and also good to be alone. Sending love to CA.

  7. PS. You asked at the end of your piece, “How do you include those you miss?”

    The night of Xmas, I was thinking about Devon, my oldest sister who passed away years ago. Tears welled and my heart ached to talk to her. I picked up the phone and called my middle sister Gaila. “I was thinking about Devon” I said to her. “I miss her”.
    There was a pause.. “I have the dictionary opened up to her name, right now! Lauren. I am playing scrabble with Lara (her oldest daughter) online and she used the word Devon. I needed to see how that name was a word as well… Wow.”

    I thought it was a good Xmas story speaking to your question. I think she may have included herself!

    • Thanks for the beautiful story, Lauren. If you have time or inclination, I’d love to hear more about how Devon “may have included herself.” I don’t know how to think about what remains of the individual after death. I know there is a continuity within my memory, but what else?

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