There I was, sitting on the floor of my bedroom, surrounded by wrapping paper, tape, scissors, and a mountain of presents, and what was I doing? Crying. Go figure.

It started with the book I was wrapping for Maddie. Lighthouse by Robert Munsch. It’s the story of a little girl who’s lost her Grandpa. The first tears came when I realized how little the book will really mean to Maddie. She doesn’t remember her Grandpa. He died when she was only a year old.

And then, because I was crying anyway, I shed a few extra tears for the little girl who was in the basement playing with Julie. Remember T? She lost her mom a few months ago and is now living with her uncle because her dad is out of the picture. She was at our house for a sleepover. I sat there on the floor crying for her, because this will be such a different Christmas for her.

Over breakfast this morning, I asked what she’ll be doing for Christmas. “Well,” she said, “we normally open our presents in the morning, and then we go to my Grandma’s house.” And then her voice faded away because I’m sure she was remembering that she doesn’t have “normal” any more. This year, there will be a new normal, and who knows what that will look like?

I sat their crying because I feel so helpless to do anything for this little girl. I can’t give her her mother back. I can’t make Christmas happy. I can’t give her a safe and happy place to land. I feel so limited, when all I can do is give her a friendly home to visit now and then. And even as I give her that, as we sit around the breakfast table, I feel a little guilty because we have our whole family around the table.

Christmas isn’t just about joy. It’s about sadness too. It’s about loss and loneliness, and getting used to life without some of the people we love.

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