Monthly Archives: December 2014


Christmas tree 2014With Christmas quickly approaching we had to find a tree. There was urgency because our daughter and son-in-law were coming over tomorrow to help decorate. You can’t decorate something that isn’t there. Off we headed into the woods in search of “the tree” it had to be the perfect tree. Each years tree was in competition with former years to be the perfect tree.

Scott spotted a beautiful tree as soon as we entered the cutting area. It was uniformly shaped and frosted with new fallen snow though the snow didn’t cause any branches to droop. It was just right and we were short on time. We had many things to accomplish.

Scott downed the tree with just enough struggle to make it worthwhile. He had the tree loaded in record time and we headed back home pleased with ourselves.

The pleasure was short lived when we discovered that the tree we choose was not a soft “friendly Fir” but a pokey “spiny Spruce”. Trying to settle the tree into the stand required thick gloves and long sleeves so as to not draw blood.

It was painful to admit we had brought home a beautiful but dangerous tree. But even more painful was decorating it. Each reach into its private space had to be calculated. I now have personal experience regarding how they acquired the name “needles” for with each ornament placement I drew back a wounded hand sometimes even drawing blood.

This experience was a vivid example of attempting to survive the holiday season when I was deep in my grief. Each time I would attempt to enter into a tradition it pricked my heart. Tears betrayed my wound causing me to retreat back into my protective shell. Christmas hurt but it wasn’t Christmas that caused the tears, it was memories of Christmas’ past.

When I look away from the glittering lights and packages under the tree and focus on the Christmas nativity 2014nativity scene, the reason for the season, my joy returns. Christmas began in a stable in Bethlehem. Jesus’ birth was page one of the plan of redemption. Focusing on the true reason for this season I became able to celebrate.

What I celebrated was not the gift giving, carol singing or cookie baking but the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the man of sorrows acquainted with grief but first he had to be born.

Christmas '03Jesus’ life and death give me the assurance that I will be not only united with Jesus but reunited with my children in heaven. This is what I celebrate.


Cari Zorno



Christmas feastBefore I even sit down at the Christmas table my senses are overwhelmed by memories. Of our 5 senses the strongest memory keeper is smell. I can smell the ham with a brown sugar glaze just how my mother-in-law made it, The smells bring back the bitter sweet memories I have of helping her in the kitchen. The tears well up but I push them back, it is too early to get teary.

Gathering around the table which is decorated beautifully with red and green ornaments, and evergreen boughs tied in bright red bows we light three candles, one for each of my children who died over the last three years.

Bowing our heads in prayer we thank God for all the blessing we stop to light three candles. With his voice cracking with emotion my husband states “As we light these candles let’s share things we remember about Josh, Beth, and Chris.” Each child had a favorite scent or flavor. Josh loved cinnamon, Beth vanilla, and for Chris it was Monster drinks so we settled on citrus. I bought scented candles for each to burn throughout the day.

In the pause that follows I want to share but I cannot say a word for the tears have tightened my throat. Instead I reach into a bag I had brought and pull out three small animals. The first is a small raccoon Josh’s favorite animal, then a frog for Beth, and lastly a giraffe for Chris. I gently place these on the table and in my own way include them in our celebration.

I miss their smiles, hugs and laughter. I can’t keep back the tears but I have the assurance from God that someday we will again sit at a feast together, the wedding feast of the lamb.

Sitting down I first reach for my napkin to dry the tears then reach for Scott’s hand, the circle continues until all hands are held around the table. We bow our heads as Scott says grace over our meal.

Suggestions for the Holiday table:

  • Leave an empty seat, our loved one is gone but not forgotten
  • Scented candles for each family member who is no longer here
  • Stuffed animals to represent loved ones

Christmas is the celebration of Heaven coming to earth and the wedding feast a celebration after we enter Heaven.

What do you now do different with a loved one gone?




Christmas Countdown – The Tree

Family time decorating the tree 2003

Family time decorating the tree 2003

We are now within  weeks of Christmas. Friends have asked me what we have done to prepare our home for Christmas. I would like to share some of our new traditions in hopes they will help you during this bitter-sweet time of the year.

It may take two weeks to get our tree up and decorated because of our schedules but it now has a prominent place in our living room. We have dressed it with glass balls, heirloom ornaments and new sparkly ones. We have the handmade ornaments with pictures of the kids growing up and ones bought on family vacations to spark memories.

The new tradition we brought to our tree are ornaments which represent each of our loved ones who are spending Christmas with Jesus. Josh has a soldier, Beth a snowboarder, and Chris has two – a camping tent and snowboard boot. When we hung these we told stories and shed a few tears. They are with us in our hearts as we look at our tree.

There are a myriad of stories depicting where the tradition of the Christmas tree began.

  • It is a Conifer which is green year round, even when the other trees seem to have died. To me it represents eternal life and stringing it with lights is like bringing the stars inside.
  • The Vikings saw the evergreen tree as a symbol of strength. It survived the long, dark, cold winters. They brought this reminder into their homes. When things got really tough and they felt as though they couldn’t survive they would see the tree and remember to be strong.

What a great symbol for us who celebrate a ‘blue’ Christmas. Grief is similar to winter, it too is long, dark, and cold but God wants us to remember He is with us. Through Him we can be “strong and courageous’ (Joshua 1:9) while leaning on Christ. One reason He came was to “bind up the brokenhearted”.

My new favorite “flower” is the Poinsettia. It is one of few flowers which will only bloom in the dark. I feel my sorrow may have darkened my world but God brought forth flowers, beauty out of ashes.

May you feel God’s strength wrapped around you this Christmas season.

What will you do differently with your Christmas tree to remember your loved one this year?