Santa Cactus

Be forewarned. This is not your typical Christmas Message.

cactus christmas

While most are out there celebrating the “magic” of Christmas, filled with joy and wonder, shredding paper off packages, and delighting in celebration with family,

I can’t help but recognize that I wake this morning not feeling any of that.

Instead I feel a sense of loss,


wandering without a firm foothold called home.

I am anticipating disappointment, expecting this day to not look like what it does in my daydreams.

In my daydreams, this day looks much different.

A large house. Lots of kids running around. Many family members gathering in the kitchen to nibble off platters as the meal is being prepared. I can even smell the turkey cooking in the oven, the mulled cider on the stove, nutmeg sprinkled on egg nog in Santa mugs.

I hear laughter, sharing of stories, the jingle of bells on the front door as another joins our celebration. More than anything, I see my baby brother standing among us. And…my proud parents standing at his side.

To have us all together again, that is my daydream.

We Rankin 4.

That is how my mother signed our Christmas cards. Our “tagline”. Our family “brand”.

We Rankin 4.


I take a step back realizing I want to apologize. Apologize for bringing a bit of gloom to this otherwise joy-filled day. But, this is my reality. And, in my heart, I know that I am not alone.

Some of us grieve this morning, opening presents from under the tree, recognizing that the pile is a bit smaller due to those whom are no longer with us. I grieve with you this morning. I, too, feel sad knowing that Christmas morning will never again look like it did in my childhood.

We Rankin 4 joined by both sets of grandparents. Singing around the piano in my Grandmother’s home, her Soprano voice filling the air with carols. My father the Tenor. My mother a harmonizing Alto. My grandfather the sturdy, resounding Bass. My brother on Cello joins the chorus. Me with my flute, singing the melody. Turkey in the oven. The table set in red and green. Our finest china set for the occasion.

I spend time letting the memories of yesterday fill my mind and remember a time when I felt more whole, more intact. I feel rather fractured now, and wonder when that feeling will go away.

My expectation, now with a family of my own, is that I would feel bliss, that my children’s excitement would overflow to me helping me to forget the sadness of my past.

Yet, I cannot escape it.

The memories swirl only reminding me that I have experienced loss. I don’t want to dwell in it. However, I must acknowledge it. If not, I deny part of my present experience.


I sit here this morning in front of a warm fire, finding solace in the tapping on keys.

I am surrounded by my children who assemble their newest Legos from Santa. My husband at my side, his presence helping to stabilize my wanderings in these memories of mine. His parents providing us with a peaceful morning reminding me that memories continue to be made.

I pray my children will be able to reminisce fondly on these years.

My parents, however, are far from me. I can’t help to wonder if they are lonely, to feel guilt over our choice to spend Christmas with the “other” grandparents. I know they wish us well and are happy for us. They are capable of creating new memories, spending time with friends and other family. But, still, lingering under the joys of this day, are lost daydreams.

We Rankin 4, gathered with our new families, all sets of grandparents, around the piano – all our voices joining together in carols – Alto, Treble, Soprano, Bass, Cello and Flute. Reading the Christmas story. Present with one another.

I am told that day will come. When all God’s children will join together in joyful chorus.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  (Revelation 21:1-4)


I choose this day to not forget. To remember the precious memories of my past. To consider my parents and the aching that remains for them. To not forget.

I will also choose to make an effort to make new memories. To get caught up in the joyful celebrations of my children.

I will choose to remember that day in Bethlehem when God sent his son, Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the World. I must choose to remember this and to remember that without this promise fulfilled, my daydream {all of us gathered once again in joyful chorus} would remain only a daydream.


Merry Christmas

I dedicate this to all of you who are grieving the loss of a loved one this day. You are not alone.

newly purposed,



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2 thoughts on “Santa Cactus

  1. Thanks for this message Jana. I lost my daughter Oct 2011 and my mom this past Aug. Two empty chairs at the table.
    Yet, yesterday, as I was walking my dog, I was thinking about all the aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents who have gone to Heaven and the Christmas party Jesus has invited them to enjoy

    • Hi Teresa, Your note is so encouraging. I know that I am not alone this day in my grief. Thank you. Yes, that is a beautiful image in heaven. My brother rejoices with grandparents, uncles, and aunts. I am ache for you and your losses. Merry Christmas. ~jana

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