The first Advent Letter to Those We’ve Lost is written by Rebecca Mast. Her husband Daniel died in a tragic accident in May of 2013, and while I never met Daniel, it’s clear to me that he was a talented photographer, a doting father, and a loving husband. Daniel and Rebecca had two children when he died, and she went on to deliver their third child in the months after he passed away. Here is the letter from Rebecca to Daniel.
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It’s lonely here. The busyness and cheer are loud in my aching ears. I used to love this time, love the gathering and drawing close, the excitement of family and gifts and time to hold each other against the cold. Trying to find space to both grieve and celebrate is exhausting. I don’t want to drag anyone else down into the dark that pulls at my soul, but it’s isolating to feel so singular in this season of together. I want to make good memories for these three little faces that look to me for their cues, but the weight of performance, of responsibility, of expectation…it’s all too much. You were my social buffer, the safe place in the crowd, the reassurance from across the room, the anchor in the storm of activity. I feel untethered. Lost in the crowd. I can drift to the outside and observe the melding of families and feel like I’m melting away. I am not my best self without you.
Sometimes it seems like I am the ghost in the room.
We will hang your stocking again this year and the kids and I will write you letters to put in them. I will make space for them to miss you and try not to insist they feel what I feel. I will try and let myself cry – and also let myself laugh – without being afraid of everyone’s opinions on how happy or sad I am. The pressure to be well, to be better than last year, to have pulled myself together “by now,” is overwhelming. And maybe it’s all in my head. All my own expectations and disappointments. But grief is not linear and healing doesn’t come like it does with a physical wound; rather, my heart is sewn up and split open repeatedly. There is no space to fall apart and the terror of ruining the Holidays for people you love because of your emotional mess is debilitating at times. I want to be okay but I don’t want to pretend. I miss you.
I miss your eyes – seeing how you saw our children. These particles of us that have become so much more than reflections of our own selves. I need someone else to exclaim over the growth and change and wonder of watching babies become children and children become more adult. I need to step back and observe you loving on them, observe your adoration and enthusiasm for their lives and beings. I get so caught up in the daily overwhelming of caring for their needs that I forget to see them in the whole. I miss the rhythm of our life together and I can’t keep up with this new life with which I’m left. I wish I didn’t have to do this without you.
I keep looking for the hope that Christmas is supposed to represent and it’s been hard to find lately. I’m still waiting for you…despite knowing you aren’t walking through the door again. But I see your love in your son’s hands on my face when he says he loves me. I see you in your daughter’s smile and your other son’s laugh. I feel your love in your parents’ hugs and your siblings’ laughter. You are here in the cracks – I wish it was enough. I miss you, Beloved.
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Please feel free to leave a note to Rebecca in the comments if you’d like.
If you’d like to know why I’m running this series of letters during Advent to those we’ve lost, you can find the answer HERE.
If you would like to write a letter to a loved one who has passed away, feel free to send it (500 words or less) to the Contact tab at the top of this page. I’m sorry but I can’t guarantee it will be published because I’m not sure if I’ll continue the series or not. But feel free to submit one if you’d like, and I promise I’ll read it.
Finally, we’ve completed the first season of the podcast, The Story of My Death. Caleb Wilde, Bryan Allain, and I recorded three different episodes in which we interview people who tell compelling, intimate stories about death. Caleb tries to give away a Hearse. Bryan rarely stops eating. The episodes are funny, sad, poignant, and heartwarming. You can check out the first season of episodes HERE.