Today is my daughter's second birthday. Two years ago my dad held Regina just hours old. One year ago my dad missed her first birthday celebration because he had his first chemotherapy treatment. Today he will be here in spirit.
When I learned my second child was due December 24 I knew advent and Christmas 2010 would be particularly spiritually rich. My husband and I shared the anticipation Mary and Joseph did. All the physical experiences of being pregnant, like the baby kicking and turning or me becoming very uncomfortable, reminded me of our Holy Mother. I was offered so many unique opportunities to meditate on the coming of the Lord because of my life's situation at that time.
This advent I was prepared for being mostly sad and distracted. "Sorry Jesus, I don't want to 'rejoice.' Can it be lent instead? These days I'd rather look to you on the cross than as a sweet infant to be adored." It's only been a little over a month since my father died (it feels like five years already). I wasn't expecting for this advent/Christmas to be a spiritually rich one. But like two years ago God took my life's circumstances at the time and has shown me how to draw closer to Him by participating spiritually in the season. Isn't that just like Him; to take our expectations and return to us gifts and graces we weren't looking for?
My dad didn't appreciate people telling him he was going to beat cancer. He always held firm to reality. Although some would see it differently I say he did not hold onto one ounce of pessimism; not to be confused with the reality. Chemo would only slow the cancer from growing but it was going to keep growing anyway. My dad was always preparing us for his eventual death by talking bluntly about it, giving us directives about accepting it. Because of the way he communicated I knew he was preparing himself first. Preparing himself in the exact way the Church asks us to prepare during advent. Waiting. Anticipating the day Jesus will come.
Immediately after my dad's final hour came I never felt so close to heaven. My mother and I were with him encouraging him to go and he listened. It changed my life. Before my spirituality was focused mostly on my relationship with God who is omnipresent. God is everywhere but when I thought about heaven, well that place seemed just a little bit removed. Not true. Heaven was sent to us. Emmanuel (God is with us) came to earth to unite them. When I think of how far the angels, saints, and my father are now it's in the next step I take. It's as far as a single breath not miles high in the sky.
Now I wait to see him again. Even if I live for forty more years it doesn't seem like that long and that far. That is what advent is about. This is why we celebrate Christmas year after year. Our celebration isn't simply just to recognize or give tribute to Jesus being born. We celebrate what that birth means... heaven is with us and we wait in joyful hope to take that step into his kingdom.
It's still a sad situation and will be a hard Christmas, but I am thankful that God has shown me this new perspective. These thoughts really deserve to be developed better in this writing, but the limits of this world have me hoping what I shared is enough for you to reflect on while I go eat cake and finish getting the house ready for 8-13 additional people staying the week.