I have broken my personal record for leaving up the Christmas decorations. Well, they were never actually “up” in a technical sense. I dragged everything out of the closet, but didn’t get around to unpacking the cheerful red and green boxes that are still strewn around the living room. Garlands and nativity scenes and wooden reindeer remain safely wrapped in tissue paper, right where they were when my brother Biff went into the hospital.

On Christmas day, two days after Biff passed away, I put up the little artificial tree that he got for Mom right before she died in the nursing home six years ago. I don’t remember putting it up, but I remember telling my friends Christmas night that I had done so.

A Comfort

A Comfort

I still plug it in most days. I find it comforting. As long as the tree’s up, maybe . . . what? He’ll come back? It won’t be over? We can have a do-over of the season? I don’t know. I just know I haven’t been ready to take it down.

The only other hint of festivity that escaped its box this year is a red satin runner draped over the back of the piano — Biff gave it to me. How he loved Christmas and all things red! He played Christmas music all year long. Drove me nuts. Anyway, on the red runner are my sympathy cards, some dried roses from the funeral, a candle, a picture of Mom, a picture of Biff, and a lock of his hair.

Flowers from Biff's best friend Ralph

Roses from Biff’s best friend Ralph

My previous record for leaving the Christmas tree up – that one was a real tree – was Valentine’s Day. My roommate had a date and she didn’t want him to see how lazy we were, so just before his arrival we hastily dragged the dead tree down to the dumpster behind our apartment. When we came back inside, we followed the very obvious trail of dried needles up two flights of stairs and right to our door. That relationship didn’t work out anyway.

Moving Forward

Since giving up fear for Lent, I’ve been working on becoming aware of my fears. I’ve noticed that I have a fear of moving forward on a number of things right now, which I understand is normal during grief. The Christmas tree has become a symbol of that fear: I guess I need to give up Christmas for Lent.

I have an idea. Spring equinox is less than two weeks away. I will get myself mentally prepared and aim to take down the tree on March 20th. I’ll have a little ritual, maybe play Biff’s favorite carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

It truly has been a bleak winter, but the days are getting longer, and it’s time.

Here’s a poem I wrote about moving forward:

Now that you’re free,

I am learning to look at the world through my own eyes.

I know you are watching me,

A whole and healed you, loving me,

Not judging me.


There is fear about moving forward,

Fear about leaving you behind,

Even though I’m the one left behind.

Here, today, you are so present in my heart.

What if I go somewhere else, do something else?

Will you come with me?

Will I come with me?