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Hanging Up the Christmas Lights After My Husband Died of COVID-19

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My husband died of COVID-19 five weeks ago, at 37 years of age. Many times I wonder how my giant teddy-bear of a man with the massive beard and the rarely-heard but delightful laugh could possibly be dead. One moment here, the next gone, at least in the physical sense.

He was my buffer: my protection against my own obsessive mind and my deep depressive episodes. For the past few years, everything had been going so well, especially around the holidays. We’d celebrate Christmas and I’d look around at my family, feeling the abundance, joy and love emanating from all of us, and I’d feel so grateful for my life and for how far I’d come, even with the constant struggle of mental illness.

And now he’s gone. I know, even when time eases the pain, that Christmas will be forever colored by what I’ve lost. Sorrow will intertwine with joy like the stripes on a candy cane. The future I planned with him is gone.

However, there will be a new and different future, and even at this early stage of grief I find within myself the will to carry on. Which is why I dragged out the storage bins of Christmas lights this morning, as my children ran around, excited for the proceedings.

There’s a couple of different ways to look at Christmas, I think as I climb up and down the ladder, stringing icicle lights under the eaves, doing Alan’s job that is mine now. One way is seeing it as a glorious outpouring of gratitude for all the ways in which our lives are wonderful. I’ve had many of those Christmases. But now? Now how do I look at it, having lost the man I loved?

A light in the darkness. That’s how I see it, as I wrestle with extension cords and nearly have a Chevy Chase meltdown in front of my home, my natural sadness and frustration competing with my desire to carry on the family tradition. A tiny light in the gloom that’s fallen around me. Not so long ago, the Yule log burned at the darkest, coldest point of winter, when mankind felt the oppressive weight of the long nights as they shivered around the fire.

There’s many cold, sad nights between me and springtime, but my Christmas lights are lit because my children and I need to know that life matters, and that hope matters, and that we can shine even when we’re surrounded by darkness.

Getty image via Viktor_Gladkov

Originally published: November 12, 2020
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