Where are you, Christmas?: My search to find it this year

Christmas music started playing on the radio right before Thanksgiving.

And I was probably the first one to turn it on.

I’ve always loved Christmas–every single thing about it. But especially the music.

But this year, the music is different. It’s haunting, actually. Every song carries with it a particular memory, and it isn’t exactly pleasant to hear. From the Chipmunks’ rendition of “Christmas, Don’t be late” to “Jingle Bell Rock” to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”, I have flashes of memories that now poke at my heart in a painful kind of way. It’s easy to cry this season–a lot. And it’s because this Christmas is so…different now.

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Hospice gave us the heads up that my Dad has only days left now and making it until Christmas is out of the question. So now, the only song that seems vaguely relatable is this one: Where are you Christmas?

“Where are you, Christmas? Why can’t I find you? Why have you gone away? Where is the laughter you used to bring me? Why can’t I hear music play? My world is changing, I’m re-arranging. Does that mean Christmas changes too?”

I found myself in a puddle of tears the other night when this song came over the radio. Just like the song says, my world is changing… and I often feel like a zombie passing through this merry season blanketed with twinkle lights and pine trees and busy shoppers.

But you see, I know I’m not the only one. I guess that’s why I felt like writing this. I know there are others this Christmas who are having their first–or maybe second or third–grown-up Christmas. Maybe they’re alone at night, missing a soldier. Maybe they’re aching over a heartbreak. Maybe they’re missing a child or refusing to put lights up after a nasty divorce. Maybe Christmas this year isn’t so merry.

sad xmas

And because I’m one of these people, I’ve been on a personal mission of sorts to find the Christmas I’ve always known. The one that gives me swirls of colorful memory every time I see a Santa or a nativity set or houses clothed in sparkling color. The one that had music fill our house growing up and the one that had me in my dad’s arms dancing to Jingle Bell Rock. The one that had my dad on the roof hanging lights and cursing under his breath when his nail gun didn’t work. The one that brought snow. And family. And turkey with cranberry sauce. And stockings. And memories of not being able to fall asleep because of my imagination creating footsteps on the roof.

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I’ve missed that Christmas.

So I prayed. A lot. Where is Christmas, God? Where is it? And nothing came to me, really. Nothing except a small thought that I should buy decorations and take them to my parents’ house. So I did just that. Couldn’t hurt.


I spent last Saturday hanging lights, setting up the old ceramic nativity set, stringing garland, and dancing around to Christmas music as my dad watched from his bed, in and out of sleep, captivated at times by the rotating Christmas tree that I set up by his bed. He used to be the one to do it. But now, it’s my turn to create. And a little bit of Christmas started to show itself. Slowly, but surely.

After that, I watched as my husband’s side of the family poured in from hours away, visiting dad, who they’d only met a handful of times, speaking softly and filling the home with quiet laughter.

And there it was. I felt a brush of Christmas again.

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And of course–family from my side has come almost every day.

holding dad lee ann

Then we all watched my dad’s favorite Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Even though he slept through most of it, we laughed at all the same parts and cried at all the same lines.

Then friends from church took my sister to pick out a Christmas tree. And some came to share scriptures and holiday messages and offer warm hugs.

And little by little, although it’s not the same (and may not ever be) I feel like I’m finding Christmas simply by realizing that I create the season for myself. WE are the spirit of Christmas. And as we change, so will Christmas. But it’s magic–it’s spirit of love and remembrance for all we have–never will if we keep it alive.


We choose to hang the lights. We make the choice to turn up the music and let snowflakes touch our tongues. We choose to remember, even while saying goodbye to a loved one who made Christmas wonderful for us our entire life, that because of Christmas day, we’ll never be apart.

Whether you’re missing a Christmas season gone by when Santa was real and reindeer could fly and mom and dad cut out gingerbread men with you with unwrinkled hands–or missing a Christmas season where your heart didn’t ache like it does now–it’s easy to question where Christmas went. It’s easy to give up on that special feeling that every child knows.


I guess that’s just part of life–it’s just part of the lesson that comes on your first grown-up Christmas when you realize Christmas doesn’t just fall into your lap and bring joy and peace and instant excitement. Christmas instead, is the opportunity to create it, simply by remembering the one who gave it all up for us.

There it is, I feel myself thinking every once in a while while seeing Dad smile at the lights I hung or closing my teary eyes on a memory of opening a doll I’d asked for all year and watching Dad grin with his full head of hair and youthful eyes.

There it is, I feel myself thinking now when family surrounds us, offering love and standing as a testament as to why that special baby once laid in a manger under a star-filled sky.

star on top

There it is, I feel myself thinking when we place the same star my dad used to always place on top of the tree on top of a picture of the Savior instead this year.


There you are, Christmas.

10 thoughts on “Where are you, Christmas?: My search to find it this year

  1. Thank you for this post. My Mom died from breast cancer two weeks after Christmas. She was just 43 I just turned 20. She died the night before my first child was born. It was a very, very hard time. But our last Christmas together was very special. It clarified to me forever of what is really important in this life. And it certainly isn’t stuff. It’s been 40 years and I miss her especially during the holidays. But Christmas is my favorite time of year, in part because of my Mom creating wonderful memories for me as a child.

  2. Although my sister didn’t die near Christmas last year, I too, felt very much like this. Christmas was my sister’s favorite holiday. My mom kept putting off putting up a Christmas tree, even though she now had custody of my sister’s son, because of all of the feelings it would bring up. It was like we were tiptoeing around this huge holiday. I dreaded the huge family gatherings that would be missing one of our brightest shining stars. I dreaded my nephews opening their presents without their mama gushing about them behind them. I dreaded not hearing her beautiful voice singing along with Christmas songs. *sigh* But I couldn’t deny my boys of Christmas, so I plugged through. And then my cousin and I decided that my mother’s house needed some decoration, because she had nothing … absolutely nothing up for Christmas. And, as much as she and my nephew both were dreading a holiday without their daughter and mother, we knew we couldn’t stop it from happening, and since we couldn’t, then we had to find some enjoyment in it. So my cousin and I snuck into my mom’s house one evening when they were out and we put up a tree with decorations and all. And, at our big family gatherings we had a moment of silence (which is hard to do with 50 people) to remember my beautiful sister. And my aunt picked up the tradition of buying my son a new ornament, since his godmother, my sister, no longer could. So … I understand some of how you are feeling. And, although I felt like I had to force the Christmas cheer at the beginning of last year’s holiday season, I did end up finding some enjoyment in it, even if it was bittersweet.

  3. Kayla, I cried as I read this. You’re an amazing daughter of God. May your faith and family strengthen you in this most difficult time.

  4. You brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with the world. Some of my deepest fears are losing my parents, particularly my father, as he was recently diagnosed with something that he just can’t fight…. it’s amazing how much you start to actually “see” time fly by when news like that happens. Blessings to you and your family. You bless so many others with your story. Thank you for your amazing strength in the Gospel. ❤

  5. Thankyou for sharing your thoughts and your journey. I couldn’t help but shed a few tears as I read this post. I appreciate so much your candor and honesty. May God bless you this Christmas with extra light and His Divine Love!

  6. How touching, Kayla! Anytime of year is a bad time to loose a loved one, but especially at Christmas time. Kayla our prayers and thoughts are with you and Matt and your mom and dad and Ashley. May you all find strength in His loving arms!
    You ALL are in our prayers dear! Love, uncle Larry

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