I love this time of year. From Thanksgiving on, my extrovert side gets to come out and play at a string of parties and events. It is a time to catch up with far-flung family. To see how big all the kids have gotten. To see how much each generation is looking like the previous one. To laugh at old memories for the hundredth time.
It is a time to relax with friends at adults-only parties. To eat yummy food I don't make. To have a full conversation without interuptions from a child. To catch up with people I only see for a few minutes each week at pick-up. To laugh at stories we've had to tell over and over, because they are that funny, and there's always one person who hasn't heard it.
It's a time to enjoy extra time with the kids. To take the annual Santa's hat photos for the mantel, where each child chooses his "look" for the year. To get crafty, decorating gingerbread houses and making new decorations. To let the kids shine, putting their own spin on decorating. To sing and dance our hearts out to our favorite Christmas songs. To cuddle up and read all of the Christmas books that have been in hiding all year. To read Scripture together and reflect on how and why Jesus came to us as He did.
It is a time to be generous. To pick out just the right gifts for family and friends. To smile and appreciate the gifts that people have chosen for us. To work hard at the church's Christmas Store in order to help folks who are having financial trouble this year.
Many times, I get so caught up in all of this goodness, that I forget. I forget that not everyone enjoys this time of year. I forget that some people are really struggling. I was reminded this week. Two people in our community committed suicide in the last 10 days. One a teenager, one a husband and father of three young children. When I hear of these things, I am so conflicted. I can't even imagine how much pain these individuals must have been in. How much suffering they endured. How they got to a point where there was no longer any hope of getting out of this despair.
But then I think about the people they left behind. And I get angry. Suicide seems like such a selfish act. It takes away the individual's pain, but what about all of the pain his loved ones are going to have to endure for the rest of their lives? The doubt and unanswered questions they are going to have to live with? It changes them forever.
And then I'm sad again. For all of them. For everyone who is in pain and just wants some peace. For those who want to help, but don't know how.
And I'm scared. How often do people not see any signs that this is going to happen? Could someone I know be suffering without my knowledge? How do I let my children know with all their hearts that there will be pain in life, but there will be joy on the other side of that pain? That God wants to help. That He has surrounded them with people who can help.
I guess all I can really do is pray. Pray that people contemplating suicide get the help they need. Pray that the families left behind find peace and comfort. Pray that we can recognize the moments when we can help others. Pray that we always know that there is joy on the other side of pain. Pray that we can all see the blessings and good around us, to keep us from feeling completely alone with our troubles.
Please pray for these families throughout these most difficult days.