The tree stands glowing in the center of the window, in the same place it has always stood, adorned with the same ornaments for over 20 years. It looks the same as it always has, yet it means something different this year. It holds on its limbs the sweetest of memories, but they are memories so very sweet that they leave an ache behind. An empty, dull, pit in your stomach ache, because they hold all that isn't there. It meant the same last year, but I may have been too blinded with grief that I didn't see them. Or they were too hard to put up. This year the sting wasn't so fresh. It didn't take just the feel of the breeze to make the world hurt. But the ache is still there, it will always be there. In the mention of a name and in the ornaments that hang amid light draped branches. They are the sweetest memories and they still can be. But it's the texts you get from your dad, who is putting the ornaments on the tree, saying it's a slow going process. He doesn't say why, but you know. So you go over and you help and though you don't hang but one ornament its just the fact that there is someone there to look and see. To look and see and not need to say anything, because you both know what the other is thinking. You both know that the ornaments mean so much, but feel so hard.
The ache is still there on Christmas morning. It's there when you are making waffles and eating them. And it's there as tears fall down faces during a pre-breakfast prayer. It's there in between all the wrapping paper and bows. It's there when presents are presented. Beautiful paintings that so artistically brought sweet memories to life. Yet, the ache is there because on this side of heaven the closest we will get to life here on earth with my brother is the smile in the paintings and in the memories that fill our hearts. It's there when you smile at the joy of a three year old opening presents, hugging Elsa dolls close. It ebbs and flows and sometimes gets forgotten, but it comes back. And really that's ok.
The ache can be handled, it can be tolerated. Though we hate that it has to be tolerated, we will tolerate it all the same. Because it's better than forgetting all together. For numbing it down so much that you crawl blindly through the holidays. That's about where I was last year, there isn't much that I remember. This year the picture is different. There was more color, more light. There was so much more life in this Christmas. I am glad for that. I am glad that on Christmas, on the time of year that we celebrate life, that we celebrate the greatest Birth there ever was, that I can ache. When a part of you is gone, some of you will always ache. I think it is similar to the way our hearts are hardwired to ache for Jesus. We think fondly of the sweetest gift, the gift that filled the whole world with hope. We ache for the fact that we are so far from sitting face-to-face with Jesus, but we are glad for the fact that someday we will. I am glad that the ache can remind me of all that was good. I am glad for the sweet memories of life that will make it just as hard to take down the tree as it was to put up. And I am glad for the fact that, while I ache here on earth, it is just a matter of time before I see my brother again and get to rejoice at seeing his face. I get to rejoice because the sweet memories will be there, but all the hard things will be long forgotten.