On Christmas day I received word that my beloved Aunt Joy had just passed away. My first mournful thought was for the sadness it would bring to the holiday. However, as I visualized the relief from pain and all discomfort of mortality, I pictured the pure joy of Christmas in heaven.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” We often associate joy with Christmas for all of these reasons, but now the connection of Joy and Christmas will have more meaning to me.
Aunt Joy was a delight and always greeted me with a smile. I don’t ever recall her talking about herself, heartaches or disappointments so I didn’t ever think about them until several years ago. It was possibly the first Christmas morning without our children at home. I don’t know why, but I was particularly missing my grandparents who had both passed away. I’d never been to the cemetery at Christmas time, but decided I wanted to leave a flower on their grave. Just before I approached my grandparents grave, I noticed the sweetest little Christmas tree I have ever seen, decorated with homemade ornaments. I stopped to admire it and realized it sat at the head of my cousin’s grave. Karen Rose, daughter of Wayne and Joy Rose, born December 20, 1952 and died three days later. She was buried on Christmas Eve.
I can only imagine the death of any child would be heartbreaking and losing a baby at Christmas time must add to the distress. With tear-filled eyes for their sorrow, I also yearned to know my cousin. I studied the headstone for information. I quickly covered my mouth to quiet my gasp as I realized our traditional Rose family Christmas party was held every year on the day she passed away. I’d never before linked the two events together and couldn’t recall it ever being talked about. I wondered if anyone else besides Wayne and Joy had made the connection. I envisioned how hard it would be to have a highly anticipated annual Christmas party on their mournful day—yet I could never remember a year when Aunt Joy and Uncle Wayne seemed sad or gloomy. My memories were only of the excitement and joy of the day.
As a child I knew Wayne and Joy had a tradition of taking their other children on or around Karen’s birthdate to the grave to decorate a small tree with homemade ornaments, but this was the first time I had actually seen it. I was tenderly impressed that after all these years my uncle and aunt, now in their late eighties, still carried on this tradition with their family. For sixty-three years, they’ve celebrated her birth with a Christmas tree and focused on their knowledge that they would someday reunite with Karen. What a brilliant gift it is to realize that long awaited reunion between a mother and daughter is happening right now.
Karen wasn’t the only child that left a void in Wayne and Joy’s hearts. In May, 2006 their son Randy was killed in a car accident at the age of fifty-two. Our Heavenly Father has given us a perfect present through Jesus Christ—who made it possible for families to be gather together, not just at Christmas time, but throughout all eternity.
Aunt Joy adequately lived up to her name, bringing happiness to those around her. We will miss her and I appreciate her example of making a joyful life despite her heartaches and disappointments. There is joy when I think of the reunion she is having with loved ones who have previously left this earth to return to their heavenly home.
Death brings serious and abundant contemplation which floods the mind with memories. I remembered a poem I had heard several years ago which touched my heart. I searched for and found the poem I wanted to share with the intent to bring comfort to my family and others who may be mourning the loss of a loved one this season. It’s reassuring to know the spirit lives on and consider the joy of Christmas in heaven.
Christmas in Heaven, written by Wanda Bencke
I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below,
With tiny lights like heaven’s stars reflecting in the snow.
The sight is so spectacular- please wipe away that tear,
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,
But the sound of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you of the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.
I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart,
But I am not so far away, we really aren’t apart.
So be happy for me dear ones you know I hold you dear
And be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I can’t tell you of the splendor or the peace here in this place.
Can you just imagine Christmas with our Savior face to face?
I’ll ask Him to lift your spirit as I tell Him of your love,
Then pray for one another as you lift your eyes above.
Please love and keep each other as my Father said to do.
For I can’t count the blessings or the love He has for you.
So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear.
Remember, I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
Thank you Uncle Wayne for letting me share this story. You are extra special to Mark and I, because you legally joined us together as man and wife. I still remember the advice you gave us, which in part is why our marriage has been so strong. You and Aunt Joy are a great example to us. I’m thinking of you and each one of my Rose cousins—I love you dearly and look forward to giving each one of you a hug.
There is joy when I think of Aunt Joy’s first Christmas in heaven.