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It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
The lyrics of a familiar song describe Christmas as “the most wonderful time of the year.” But is it? Yes, if you have reasons to be jolly, if you are loved and if you can partake in the celebrating and gifting. Yes, if you know “Jesus is the reason for the Season.” But no, if you have lost someone you love. Instead of “the best of times,” losing a loved one at Christmas, is “the worst of times.” But hold on there is hope.
I heard Johnnie Mathis’ beautiful version of the above song recently. The lyrics go on to describe the holiday season as “a time of good cheer… the happiest season of the year… when loved ones are near …and hearts are glowing.” Death of a loved one elicits emotions far from happiness. Sorrow, pain, sadness, anger, guilt, frustration and anxiety are the rule, not the exception.
I asked a few people who buried dear loved ones at holiday time, “How do you cope with loss at Christmas? What helped you get through it?”
My aunt, Vannie Brown, lost her mother 8 days before Christmas in 1993. She was very close to her “Momma” whom she visited and lovingly cared for everyday, in her later years. Vannie says she was angry because Christmas was Grandma’s favorite time of the year. The casket spray and other floral arrangements received, had Christmas colors and Christmas tree bulbs, cedar, pine and other decorative items on them. She was upset because she “associated Christmas with joy and happiness, not with death.” It was some time before she stopped asking why, and asked why not? She came to realize that Christmas was such a special time for Grandma, but more importantly that Grandma was just where she wanted to be, in heaven, “in the presence of the Lord.” This belief as well as her memories, have helped her find joy in Christmas once again. She tells others to hold on, “time and the Lord will heal your heart.”
Michael Fernandez lost a father at Christmas. He remembers it was very difficult because he had also lost his mother in January of the same year. He says he was “in a daze.” “Older relatives, who were very wise, said encouraging things to me. That really helped me get through it.” He did not have the faith in God that he has know, but recommends that people lean on God, as well as wise loved ones.
Cherrie Hill lost her mother and father in December of different years. She remembers “just going through the motions; nothing was real.”Her mother loved Christmas and made it such a joyful time. Cherrie said that the family decided not to try to imitate mother’s Christmas and celebrated at their own homes. They felt it would be more depressing to gather together without mother there. They could never “duplicate” their mother’s Christmas celebration. It has helped Cherrie to gift many of her mother’s decorations to residential care facilities. It makes her feel good that others are enjoying her mother’s beloved decorations. She says that her mother taught her children to “keep good thoughts and move forward, no matter what happens.” Her mother’s teachings, encouraged her to get on with her life.
Jessica Valentine, my aunt, loss Uncle Cliff 10 days before Christmas in 1999. She describes being “in shock” for a long time. His death was “unexpected” and she didn’t have a chance to prepare. Jessica, a woman of strong faith, said “I knew everything was going to be alright because we were happy together and trusted the Lord. I just had to take things one day at a time.” Jessica encourages people to be loving and to “make the most of every opportunity to say or do something that is uplifting.” We may not get another chance to do so.
Faith in God, wise words of encouragement, wonderful memories, giving and the willingness to take it one day at a time, can help you cope with death during the holidays.
This Christmas may not feel like the most wonderful time of the year but hold on, there is hope.
“My First Christmas In Heaven”
I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below,
With tiny lights, like Heaven’s stars reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away that tear,
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,
But the sounds of music can’t compare with the Christmas
I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.
I know how much you miss me; I see pain in your heart.
But I am not so far away, we really aren’t apart.
So be happy for me dear ones, you know I hold you dear.
And be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this
I sent you each a special gift from my heavenly home above.
I sent you each a memory of my undying love.
After all, love is a gift more precious than pure gold.
It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.
Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do.
For I can’t count the blessings or love He has for each of you.
So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear.
Remember, I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this
I love this time of year and I know I am in good company. My grandma Cora also loved Christmas and always set the tone for a merry one. She started cleaning the house weeks before that special day, scrubbing floors, washing walls and windows, and starching and ironing curtains. Grandma decorated the old country house beautifully with holly, cedar and pine.
Word has it that she began baking potato and egg custard pies, coconut and chocolate cakes, and other delights well before Christmas. The delicious aroma of these sweets and of fresh fruit permeated the house for weeks. Grandma made sure that Christmas was “the most wonderful time of the year” for her family.
Gifts, as we know them, were not affordable. Kids received a shoe box filled with fruit, nuts, candies and one doll for girls or one cap pistol for boys; and they were more than pleased. Grandma excelled at her gift of giving because she gave of herself; she gave her love. She loved the Lord and sang hymns throughout the day. On Christmas day the joy and excitement in Grandma’s house, was unmatched.
Grandma was happiest during the Christmas season so it is no wonder that she died in December, one week before Christmas. Grandma’s gone now, but our memory of her is fresh and full of joy. Grandma is in heaven and that gives us so much comfort. For those who will miss their “Grandma” or any other loved one this Christmas this poem is shared, in hopes that it will comfort you.
Gail Valentine Taylor, M.S.W.
52 Weeks of Support
It's hard to know what to say when someone experiences loss. Our free weekly newsletter provides insights, quotes and messages on how to help during the first year.