Updated: Mar 10, 2019
This will be our family's first Christmas without our beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother Dori. Christmas at Cotton Lake was always a little bit magical. Decorations were carefully hung all over the house--ornaments in the rafters, Christmas lights on every wall, and tinsel around the tree. On top of that, nativity scenes, Christmas-themed train sets, and singing Santas adorned every available shelf. Still-warm fudge was usually sitting on the countertop and a whole host of Norwegian goodies could be found on a platter on the kitchen table. The fireplace blazing in the corner and the gifts under the tree topped it all off. It was a perfect little slice of Christmas heaven on a snowy Northern Minnesota lake.
Most recently, Christmas with Dori may have looked a little different, but it was no less special for any of us. Having spent the past few years at Oak Crossing in Detroit Lakes, we had become accustomed to spending holidays in the private dining room with Dori. We’d share a meal as a family and then sit around the table eating dessert, drinking coffee, and catching up, like always. In addition to spending time with our own family, however, we were now blessed with numerous opportunities to nurture new relationships with staff members, residents, and some residents’ spouses and families. Many of them even became like family to us--something that never would have happened if it weren’t for Dori being there. Holidays eventually became a blend of old and new for all of us, and, now, as we move further and further from her Oak Crossing days, I appreciate the memories from that stage of our life all the more.
For those of you whose holiday traditions have changed recently because a loved one has entered the nursing home, I want to encourage your family as you make this shift. It may be a challenging adjustment for a while--and it may not feel like Christmas right away--but allow yourself to embrace this new “normal” for whatever period of time you have it. Try to find ways to incorporate family traditions even if you’re not celebrating in exactly the same way that you used to. Practice patience with one another and remember that everyone may respond a little differently to this change. And finally, take extra care to come alongside the loved one whose whole life--not just their Christmas--has changed drastically from what it used to be.
May we all pause to remember that it was never about the food, the things, or the traditions in and of themselves… Christmas has been and always will be about God’s bright love for us and the love that we share with our friends and family. Let us not lose sight of that as we navigate this season together. Merry Christmas.