A Threadbare Christmas

A Threadbare Christmas

Threadbare is an adjective used when something is well worn, used up, or practically falling apart. This adjective seemed to describe my excuses for not wanting to face the fact that my cousin had died this summer, the day after I moved home to Florida- 

The night before flying home, her husband called to tell me she was deteriorating rapidly- She fought a good fight against cancer for over three years. Worn down from the chemo, the surgeries, and the tumors that still seemed to appear in her body, life was fading from her once sparkling eyes. 

On a mission, I drove immediately to see her one last time, to say goodbye.  Through deep breaths and fragmented words, I heard her say “love …you!” She also managed to say” the pajamas were… amazing!” 

I sent her a new pair of PJ Harlow pajamas in navy blue so she could feel cozy in her bed. As I looked down at her uncomfortable body on the hospice bed, she was almost unrecognizable to me. Not cozy at all.

She passed away on a hot summer evening in Florida, with all of her family surrounding her. 

She died as the sunset blazed multi-colors in honor of her that night. 

Like so many other canceled events, no formal funeral would proceed because of COVID.

 No family 2020 gatherings that seem to mark moments of significance in time.

For months, I would pass by the bereavement cards at the grocery store. Every time I tried to buy one, I would put them back. I’ll buy that card later, I would think to myself.  That card is just not right. I couldn’t bring myself to send them to her family (just yet) 

Without a final funeral for our family, I delayed the real grief. I resisted the sorrow and the sadness of not getting to see her. I fooled myself into believing I would see her at Christmas, like every other year. 

Then, the news came that my family was canceling our family Christmas Eve tradition, due to COVID, and I shattered. She won’t be coming to Christmas this year and neither will I! 

Worn down from the losses, the cancelations, and the disappointments of this year, I just sat in my room and felt an emptiness enter my soul. 

No Marianne? No family? No Christmas? 

The phases of grief came into place. Denial, anger, bargaining … and all 

With nothing left to look forward to, I began to cry. I pulled up Marianne’s Facebook and remembered her final wishes were to send money to The Ballard House. 

The Ballard House is a house in Texas where families can live while getting treatment in downtown Houston. The house gives so much comfort to those who would never be able to afford living expenses in another state while receiving treatment. The unseen costs of cancer are exorbitant!  

A large monetary number came to mind immediately, almost like I was listening to the sound of a voice whispering in my ear. I called Marianne’s husband, just to make sure this is what they wanted. Her husband confirmed that yes, Marianne wanted all money to go to the Ballard house instead of flowers or any gifts. 

Yesterday, December 16th I picked up the phone to call the director of The Ballard house in Houston. I a voice mail with the dollar amount that our family wanted to give them. 

I received a call back from the director. 

“Mrs. Russell, I have seen God do this before but I want to share with you what just happened. The day before you called us, we were in a staff meeting about fundraising demands. Due to COVID, we were not able to raise any money for a very special need. You see, all our blankets and our sheets are threadbare from years of wear, and we need to replace them for the residents. The amount you are donating is exactly the amount to make sure everyone will have new blankets and cozy beds for Christmas this year.”

My heart began to feel renewed at the goodness of God to use what seemed like a last-ditch effort at grief and turn it into a miraculous divine provision for so many in need. 

You see, our threadbare moments can become woven into the story of others who feel threadbare too. The pain of our loss can be transformed into powerful actions that can restore hope for many. Although I am sad my cousin passed away this summer, I know it was her voice that was whispering that amount in my ear to give. In making that donation, I felt my first wave of joy this season and connection to my cousin’s memory of being with me at Christmas. 

Christmas is the hope that we don’t have to live threadbare. Jesus’s birth is proof that God can transform a worn-down manger into a place for an eternal miracle. Jesus was God’s gift to worn-down people so that they could be made new.

We have joy and hope to give amid missed family moments. 

Maybe you are feeling threadbare too? May your Christmas be woven back together with the spirit of God’s unfolding grace within your heart. 

2 Corinthians 4:17 MSG 

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace

This is the New Living Translation of the same verse: 

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

Blessings to you this Christmas – Tracey



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