December 20, 2011


Sorry I’ve been absent, y’all! Hoping the new year is a new start to consistent blogging. A few weeks ago I shared about loss and pain. Death and sorrow. Today, my dear friend Leigh is graciously inspiring us from a place of deep grief, and peace-filled truth. Leigh exemplifies grace in friendship and caring, and her words are beautiful! I hope y’all are just as delighted & encouraged by her as I am. Without further ado…

The first Christmas without her, Grandpa didn’t want to host our celebration in their home. Instead, we went to my uncle and aunt’s house next door on the farm. We drove down the same lane traveled for family gatherings, turning in one driveway sooner.

Presents lay piled under the tree as we ate. I can’t remember if there was freedom to say, “Grandma would have enjoyed this.” In many ways, she embodied Christmas. Our eyes carried haunted expressions in spite of the joyous occasion. It was the first time I personally understood how my beloved holiday could be bittersweet.

My cousin’s wife Heather read the Nativity story and I read a short reflection. Not our usual fare, but new traditions seemed important as we sorted through the old. We lit a candle and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus, just as Grandma would’ve wanted. Baby Kelli blew out the candle and, as the youngest, helped pass out the gifts.

Sure, there was laughter. My family can’t go long without it; but there was a somber air. She should’ve been there. All the differences testified to that fact.

At some point, I distributed my carefully wrapped gifts to Grandpa and each of his and Grandma’s children. I’d compiled pictures from Grandma’s final two months, starting with her first hospitalization and leading up to all the visitors that came to see her one last time. Everyone huddled around their book, tears in their eyes; together we remembered.

I page through that photo book now and think about all the opportunities we had to adjust to the idea she’d be leaving us. We had a chance to make memories and tell stories and say words we needed to say. And it was hard and awful, but it was beautiful and rich.


Now I face the first Christmas without my other Grandma. That grief is fresh, just two months between saying goodbye and celebrating the season.

There was no time to prepare. No extra chances to say one more I love you or Tell me about your childhood. I had enough time to make the 7 hour drive home, go to the hospital, and be there when she died. We may not always want to see a person’s final moments, but it is their last gift to us. Their way of saying “I trust you with this.” No matter how many deaths I’ve witnessed, I’m always struck anew by the holy reverence that descends into a room after someone passes.

My whole life, the Kramer family has gathered on Christmas Eve. The meal has changed along with the way we do presents, but we have always been together. Except there will be a glaring absence this time around.

It changes everything. Grandma won’t be finalizing dinner preparations in the kitchen when we arrive. She won’t summon us when it’s time to eat. She won’t sit near Grandpa and open their pile of presents together. We won’t get to watch her laugh when the White Elephant exchange begins. None of this makes sense to me.

But it shouldn’t make sense. Grief disrupts our natural order. We’d prefer our loved ones stick around forever and we are surprised when they don’t. Death reminds us that this life is not the end all, be all. Heaven awaits us if we know Christ as Savior.

Christmas also reminds us that we were made for more than this life. A baby born to save us. Jesus knew His happy ending would look different from what the disciples believed. He would not grow old and gray with his dearest friends. Instead He took to the cross and saved mankind.

I am comforted that someday there will be no more sorrow. Living out of state has served as a buffer between reality and denial. This will be my first holiday without my Grandma, as I was unable to return home for Thanksgiving. As I prepare for Christmas, I am uncertain how our family will respond. We may cry, we may laugh, we may begin new traditions.

I am grandmotherless now, but I still bear their impact on my life. And that’s what I choose to focus on this season, knowing that God will work all things for good. Even in times of loss; perhaps especially then.

In May 2010, Leigh Kramer intentionally uprooted her life in the Chicago suburbs by moving to Nashville in an effort to live more dependently on God.  She writes about life in the South, what God has been teaching her, and her ongoing quest for the perfect fried pickle. She is currently writing her first novel. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and her blog HopefulLeigh.

Thank you sweet Leigh!! I’m wondering… what does Christmas look like for you? Please leave a comment sharing about your holidays. Then hop over to Leigh’s blog for more encouragement. Thanks!

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  1. “Death reminds us that this life is not the end all, be all. Heaven awaits us if we know Christ as Savior.” Amen, Leigh! This will be the 20th Christmas without my mom. I hold to the HOPE I have of being reunited with her again one day! May the Lord’s peace be with you and your family this season. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  2. You know that I know all to well the pain of loss, especially during Christmas. Thanks for being transparent enough to say it stinks, but hopeful enough to say our greatest hope is Jesus. Merry Christmas sweet friend. I hope this Christmas carries with it a few new traditions on the Kramer side that will help you sort through the old as you did with Grandma Petit.

  3. Beautiful words, dear one. Thank you for sharing your grief with us… xoxo

  4. Brenda Schiesser says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart and what a lot of people feel this time of year. I have been grandmotherless for almost 26 years. I was only 8 when I lost my father’s parents within two weeks of each other……..that was 48 years ago…..not quite 31 when I lost my last grandparent….my Mom’s Mom. My parents are both gone……Dad 20 yrs……..Mom less than yrs. I have also lost 2 brothers and a sister. My beloved brother in law of 50 yrs passed this year so I have a sister who is grieving terribly this year. I have an older brother who is having a 3-5 artery bypass tomorrow……..a younger sister left took off early yesterday and who no one knows where she is. I have 3 children…..all married……..7 granddaughters……thankfully all healthy and as happy as possible in this economy. So, through the missing of the loved ones………the uncertainty of the outcome of my brothers huge surgery tomorrow………and a missing sister, I am still so grateful to our Jesus, who is with me and who knows what is going on and how it will end. The Christmas holidays are crazy enough without any extra stuff but apparently this is what I am being dealt this year and I will do my best to get through it with Him and praising His holy name..

    • Dear Brenda, praying for you sweet one that your holidays are full of His comfort and that His presence fills all voids that loss and pain have created. May Christ’s peace dwell all around you and His tender mercies wrap you up like a comfy cozy blanket. Blessings to you friend. xoxo, Sam

    • So much loss and uncertainty, Brenda, and yet you are still counting the blessing of Christ. Thank you for that encouragement.

  5. “Christmas also reminds us that we were made for more than this life. ” Yes. Beautiful, as always, Leigh. Praying for you, your family, and all of those dealing with grief this holiday season.

  6. Beautifully said, Leigh. Adjusting to the new normal takes time, and you captured the emotion perfectly with this: Our eyes carried haunted expressions…

    My 7 yr old niece died unexpectedly in 2009 and we know we will always sense that void. But each year we not-so-secretly wonder if this Christmas will be the last one before we’re all together with Him!

    • Praying this season is super sweet and special for y’all! xoxo, Sam

    • Thank you, Susan. I’m so sorry for the loss of your niece. The new normal takes time and even then, we can’t help but wonder when we’ll all be together again. Someday. Until then, we grasp on to the hope set before us.

  7. Thank you!! This is BEAUTIFUL!! I am great-grandmotherless now. This was impecable timing as she went home to be our Heavenly Father today. I am comforted also that she is reunited with our pa paw, her husband, who died on her birthday 15 years ago & knowing that there will be no more sorrow. “Christmas also reminds us that we were made for more than this life. A baby born to save us.” As I reflect on just the past few weeks, seeing 5 babies born & the passing of my great grandmother at the age of 95, it reminds me not to go through life so fast. To treasure the moments that we have. Love & Blessings to you & your family this Christmas season!! 🙂

  8. I was with my father when he died just 13 days ago and that was very difficult. His mother died on New Year’s Day when I was in college; my mother’s father died at Thanksgiving, her mother near Valentine’s Day. The holidays are full of very fond memories of all of them.
    But the hardest of all is that my 21 year old daughter died 829 days ago… i count in days because there isn’t hardly a moment’s passing where i’m not thinking of her and reeling from the pain of missing her and the holidays are the worst times to grapple with that grief. She was the mother of my grandson and the wife of my former son-in-law and when she died, that whole family was lost to me. She died in September 2009 and he remarried by that first Christmas and we haven’t seen or talked to them in a year because he moved to another state and changed phones in an effort to erase her entire memory, including us.
    So, i try very hard to enjoy the holidays, and have a bit of success, but for the most part everyone’s happiness and cheerfulness sort of bounces off. I am so incredibly grateful for the Lord’s gift to us and the opportunity to celebrated the birth and life and death of Jesus, my Savior. I long for the reunions with my precious daughter and father and other loved ones and that is my main focus, not just at these holidays, but at this point in my grief, it’s my source of hope. Like Christ, I am not of this world… my home is in heaven, and i long to be there

    • Marsha, I’m so sorry for your losses and that they have been compounded by other circumstances. I wish I had words that would make it better but as you know, there’s no such thing. I pray that God would speak to you and comfort you in tangible ways this Christmas.

  9. ThankYou to all the Godly women whom are willing to share their Hearts with the rest of us reminding us of all the Blessings we have and to be there for others in times of sorrow. Hearing of all the loss and pain makes a lot of us guys want to come rescue everyone, but we can’t. However, our Lord is the one we do focus on for His Peace and Understanding. His Holy Spirit and our Comforter unite us to remember our one common goal, to witness and spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. It is thru the outreach of organizations such as this site that has helped me to remember to be still before the Lord and wait patiently… Psalms37:7 for those of us waiting on the “aisle” walk 🙂
    thanx again everyone for being inspirations even in Your tremendous grief, in His Peace, mark

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