Traditionally the holidays are a time for coming home. That desire for gathering with family seems to be instinctive in most people.
But for some, the cheerful and fun-filled holidays are not so cheerful and fun-filled.
Sometimes they’re hard.
Sometimes they’re lonely.
Sometimes they’re difficult.
Sometimes coming home can be hard.
ROB FROM NEW ENGLAND
Rob was a good friend from several years ago who came to school at Utah State from the New England area. Rob called me late one evening, just a few days before Christmas, hoping we could get together for a bite.
I remember enjoying the glimmer of Christmas lights and the fresh blanket of fluffy white snow covering the ground as I headed to meet him. Funny how little things like that stand out after more than twenty-five years.
I hadn’t seen Rob in a few months and I was a little surprised by how downtrodden he seemed. Rob had a great smile and eyes that were full of life. But that night, he looked as if the whole world was resting on his shoulders.
We sat and talked for quite a while, our conversation full of the normal stuff people talked about when there’s nothing else to say. It wasn’t awkward, per se, but it wasn’t the easy-going-talk-about-anything type of conversation we regularly enjoyed in the past.
When our conversation hit that truly dead point, and neither of us looked like we knew what to say, Rob opened up and started to talk.
His thoughts at first were a little disjointed, almost rambling as he seemed to grasp for discarded remnants of many fragmented memories.
I watched as Rob mentally retreated into a time far past, his eyes wet but not tearful, his words slowly gaining a hollowed focus as he started to tell me about his older brother.
Rob idolized his big brother even though he was younger by several years. Despite the age difference, the two were close and Rob seemed to always be included in what his brother was doing. Rob actually laughed and smiled a little when he regaled me with some of their shenanigans.
But then, as if he realized lighthearted gaiety was stringently against the rules, Rob’s laughter was gone.
And so was his big brother.
That night we sat there talking was the anniversary of the day Rob’s big brother killed himself.
It was a hard night, one I understand much better now, and Rob had not been home in several years, not since he left to come to school. He had no desire to go home for Christmas, no desire to celebrate and gather with family.
The memories were too painful.
I didn’t fully understand why at the time.
I do now.
After my brother Shane was killed by suicide, the pain was unbearable for a time, beyond any comprehension.
I don’t remember how long Rob and I talked that night, but I do remember how I felt. I remember Rob’s tears, the pain in his eyes, and the hurt in his voice. I remember the brief laughter and smile. I remember the glimmer of Christmas lights and the fresh blanket of fluffy white snow covering the ground.
I believe Rob felt better after we talked, but I don’t know for sure.
BEING AWARE OF OTHERS
Strive to be aware this holiday season of those for whom coming home is hard. Do your best to understand their perspective. Reach out with love and compassion and do more listening than talking.
The journey home always begins with a first step. Extending an invitation is a great first step.
Coming home can be hard.
It’s worth it.
I haven’t seen Rob since that night many years ago, but I think about him every Christmas. And I think of his brother.
I’m grateful he called me.
I hope he’s been able to go home.
I hope you also can feel you can go home.
Have a great Monday. Thanks for letting me share.
p.s. Take 13 minutes today to think of someone who may have a hard time coming home, and extend an invitation.
“The story you most consistently tell yourself will be the story to most consistently come true in your life.”
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