Yesterday David spent 10 hours driving just to be able to visit with Matt in jail for a few minutes. As Christmas was approaching David told me “I need to see him before Christmas. I just need to tell him Merry Christmas and that I still love him.” It got us talking about how we feel about enjoying Christmas while one of our children isn’t.
Several years ago Laura was in rehab on Christmas. I took two days after Christmas to drive several states away to have a short visitation with her and then drive home again. I found myself feeling guilty for all the fun and excitement that comes along with celebrating the holidays while she was in a low point in her life and most likely feeling completely miserable. I found it difficult to talk to her about things going on in our life. How could I tell her about the fun times we’re having? How could I tell her about things like family time and trips to Disney and new pets without feeling like I’m rubbing her nose in all that she’s missing out on? How could I let my life go on and be happy without her. I feel like, as a mother, my life is supposed to be focused on my kids. Moving forward with my own life and completely enjoying it brought me feelings of guilt.
David said he feels no guilt. Matt’s situation in life is because of Matt’s choices. It has nothing to do with us. (I think his outlook on it is probably much healthier than my own.) What David is experiencing though is sadness. He’s used words like “melancholy” and “nostalgic” to describe what he’s feeling this Christmas. There are so many memories of past Christmases that keep coming up. He’s talked about being outside putting lights on the house and Matt in his little diaper literally bouncing up and down with excitement. He’s remembering past road trips, snowmen, and Santa visits. As we pulled ornaments out to put on the tree we found a few of those homemade little ornaments that kids always make at school and proudly bring home to their parents. There are so many good memories it can make your heart feel like it’s literally breaking knowing that you won’t have that this year and possibly never will again.
Matt has been back in jail for about two months and he never contacted us. We really didn’t know what to expect from him yesterday as we were unsure of his reasoning for not contacting us. I prayed for their visit to be meaningful. I prayed for articulate communication and understanding between the two of them and I prayed for growth in their relationship. I believe in the power of prayer and I believe God answered my prayers yesterday. David told me that Matt looked good. Of course he still needs a haircut (haha) but, being in jail, he’s sober. He made eye contact and was happy to see his Dad. I believe he understands that, regardless of his past choices, we love him.
It occurred to me today that lost souls like Matt are really what Christmas is about. All the togetherness and presents are great but that’s really not why we celebrate. Christmas is about hope, love, forgiveness, redemption. Perhaps an unconventional Christmas in jail can still bring peace and joy to a lost soul as they realize the gifts that are really being offered to them if they choose to accept them.