When we think of the winter holidays we often tend to reminisce about holiday traditions. Though there may be some variety and incorporation of new foods at the holiday meal, we seem to enjoy the comfort of sticking to traditions.
For example, my husband and I continue to hang the same ornaments on the Christmas tree, year after year, that we started decorating with when the kids, now grown, were babies and toddlers. Warm memories are summoned as we hang Baby's First Christmas ornaments. This celebration of the past is part of Christmas.
But I think I can be pretty confident in saying that as much as we may cling to the tried and true in life in general, everything changes. Life is not naturally static. And often when we try to keep things as they've been, we get stuck in ruts, because we need to grow and move on.
In Always and Forever Love, heroine Lacey Aegar has every reason to insist on the status quo in her life. She's suffered grief as a child when her father was murdered, then again when her husband, Nicholas, also was killed. But when he returned to her as an embodied spirit two years after his death, she leaned into the life she had with him like the proverbial dying man reaches for water. Her life is static and small, but no longer filled with grief.
Here's a peek at a scene in which Nicholas attempts to convince Lacey to see other possibilities.
“I’m fine.” Lacey got up and turned on the TV.
He perched his elbow on his knee and tilted up his head to look into her eyes. It was unnerving but oh-so Nick.
“I’m content. But your needs and my needs are different. I want you to consider getting out, with people.” He emphasized the word people. It was deliberate and it pained her.
“I need you, not some random people, as you put it, to fill my time. My time doesn’t need filling. Just because Tyler is gone does not mean I’m suffering. Well, maybe a little.” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, suddenly very much wanting to move around. She didn’t want to leave, go out, as Nick put it, but his prodding made her squirm inside her skin. “It’s only for two weeks. I’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, you said that.” Nicholas leaned back against the couch, still peering up at her.
“Said what?” Glancing around the room, searching for a safe place to land her thoughts, Lacey felt her heart skip a beat.
Nicholas was up off the couch in an instant, his arms pulling her close, close to his beating heart. “You said you’re fine. You don’t need to convince me, Lacey.”
“Stop pushing me, then.” She didn’t want to look in his face and see that he was fine, too, but in a different way. Panic and fear stirred in her chest. Quietly, she dared to utter the unutterable. “Don’t you need me? ’Cause if you’re thinking of leaving—"
“I’m not. I told you, I’m here with you for as long as you want me. I will always love you. And that is why I say the things I do. You know that.” Without loosening his embrace, Nicholas angled his head toward her a little, enough to capture her gaze.
In his eyes she saw that it was true. He loved her. She drew back a bit, not leaving his arms, but enough to give herself space to be profound.
“I look around this room and I see that everything here is what we created. The dark-blue couch and matching chairs. The tables and lamps. The coordinating blue carpeting and the bookshelves filled with books—books you’ve read and I’ve read. The fireplace and the clock on the mantel.” She let go of him and walked around the comfortable room, gesturing, while he watched her, intently listening. “The entire room, the entire house is the way we made it. I belong here. You belong here, with me, and with Tyler. I don’t need anything more to be happy. Why can’t you understand that? This, this life with you in it, is my choice. I didn’t have a choice in your death. I didn’t know that after two years you could come back to me—and still be here two years later. Turns out things in life are not what I believed. Different things are possible. Life with you is apparently possible and that’s what I choose. I choose you.” She was no longer walking around the room and her knees felt like gelatin. She had to make him understand that there was nothing to fix in her life.
“You never light fires in the fireplace anymore.” His voice was soft, thoughtful.
She narrowed her eyes and stared him. “What does that mean? What are you saying?”
Nicholas shook his head, as though shaking out thoughts, and faced her squarely. “I hear what you’re saying, Lacey. I’m as grateful as you are that life is not what we thought, that it is much more. But everything changes and life, as unimaginable and uncharted as it is, is never static.”
She shoved her arms around him and held on. “This life with you is not me being stuck. You’ve got to believe me.” Nicholas didn’t say anything, he just held her tighter. She didn’t understand why, after all this time, he was concerned about her social life.
It's time for Lacey to move on with her life, but it's hard. The structure of what we know feels good. Many things about Christmas traditions are worth preserving. So as we all address needed change in our lives, I for one will continue to decorate the tree the same.
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