Tricky days are what my daughters and I called holidays and special occasions after Bruce’s death. Days that were once full of activity but now there was an empty chair or no need to purchase a Father’s Day or Birthday card. Currently even without the loss of a loved one we are experiencing tricky days as we navigate this pandemic. Our seasonal celebrations can’t be celebrated in a business as usual fashion. So do we throw it all out, just skip it, or do we regroup and find a way to make those celebrations morph into an appropriate remembrance of why we would normally gather and feast.

At the beginning of October 2001 my mother-in-law sheepishly asked, “What is happening for Thanksgiving?”  

“It’s a Van Hine year. We were planning on coming to you. Only thing is we have to bring Buster.” (Buster was our rather large dog who considered himself a lap dog.)

“Oh, that is fine.”

When Bruce and I were dating and our first few years of marriage, we ate two Thanksgiving dinners – one at the Clark’s and one at the Van Hine’s. Eventually we got smarter and alternated years. Odd numbered years were Van Hine and even numbered years were Clark’s. The great thing about this was I never had to cook a Thanksgiving meal until recently.  

My Mother-in-law always had a full house for Thanksgiving. She was wonderful cook and hostess. She had the amazing ability of finding those who needed a place to go. We were a little worried that there may be a house full for Thanksgiving 2001, but she only invited three of her lady friends. And for some reason that I can’t really even articulate they reminded me of the three fairies in Sleeping Beauty –Flora, Fauna and Merryweahter. 

The girls and I had set the dining room table earlier in the day. Appetizers were arranged on the coffee table. Beverage offerings were in the kitchen. As my mother-in-law prepared the last bits of food for the meal, Emily, Meghan and I made polite conversation with her friends. Eventually one of the women, who I had the impression had been named the spokesperson, offered words of condolence and the elephant in the room was now named and was no longer lurking about. Thank you, Jesus

As Christmas 2001 approached the question asked by many was “so what are you doing about Christmas?” What??  At first, I thought people were asking “what was I doing for Christmas?” but then I realized they were asking “are you celebrating Christmas?” My reply was “No matter what Jesus was born and that is always worth celebrating.” 

What I learned about tricky days is if possible hold onto traditions, they may give you solid ground at a wobbly time. Also name the elephant in the room – loss, anger, disappointment, etc. Naming it seems to let everyone breath. Have a plan. It won’t be plan A but plan B or C could surprise you with moments of laughter and/or peace. Let’s not forget that these are extraordinary times. We have never done a pandemic before so except for staying home there is no right way to do it. So my advise would be just do it.

“for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11b-14 NIV

On another note: my heart aches for the young people that will miss so many rites of passage – prom, graduation, etc. My hope is those occasions can still be celebrated in a meaningful way. The students accomplishment can be acknowledged and they can be given a special day even though it won’t look like they thought it would look. I pray the students can acknowledge what was lost but can rejoice in their accomplishments and look forward with hope to the future.