Saturday, December 18, 2010


My dearest Jan,

I lost it today...big time. It started at the store as I was looking for Christmas card and there staring at me was one that simply said "Happy Birthday Jesus". I haven't played that song yet, even though I know it was one you loved so much to hear this time of the year. What it did was bring a lump to my throat as I thought of you.

As I pulled into the garage at home is when I really lost. Remember how we used to sit in the car sometimes and listen to the end of a book on tape before going inside? I had gotten a book on tape on Tuesday when I drove up to Grand Rapids to see my sisters and today as I came home from the store I was getting to the very end, so I left the car idling and listened for a few minutes in the car.

The story involved a letter not to be delivered by the local postmistress to the writers wife, unless the postmistress received word that the writer had been killed while serving in London as a doctor during World War II. The word of his death came by way of telegram one day to the post office and so the postmistress sadly went over to deliver the telegram and the letter that she had been holding for several months.

The letter began this way: "My dearest Emma. If you are reading this letter it means that I have died in England and the hand that holds the pen with which to write you, will never again hold your hand. That thought is almost more than I can bear to consider..."

That's when I lost it. Right there in the car. Sitting in the garage. Once they started they were like a river and I could not stop them. After a few minutes I found myself putting the car into reverse and backing out of the garage. I found myself driving toward Sunset Cemetery where I parked on the street parallel to your grave.

That's when I lost it again. Big time. There is too much snow to walk up the hill to stand beside you, so I sat in the car and cried and actually talked to you. I was feeling very alone. I was feeling very lonely. I was feeling cast adrift. I was unprepared to go home and start wrapping Christmas presents without you making out the labels. I didn't want to make the fruit salad to bring to our Sunday School class party tonight. I couldn't bring myself to think "Merry" Christmas. I was missing you something fierce as once again I thought about life without you as a central part of the equation.

And now I am losing it again. I guess it is a day for tears. I simply want to say: "My dearest Jan. I write this with a heavy heart knowing that the fingers typing this letter will never again entwine themselves with yours as we hold hands. I realize that "lonely" and "alone" and not just words to me, they are a stark reality, and not even my family and friends can fill the spot reserved for you all these years. That is truly almost more than I can bear to consider on this day and during this season of the year. I love you honey, very, very much!"

But here's the deal:
  • I am going to wrap those presents.
  • I am going to make that fruit salad.
  • I am going to attend the party tonight.
  • I am going to celebrate a Merry Christmas a few days early tomorrow night with our kids. I am going to try and bring both my joy and your joy to these events.
  • I am going to give the grandkids extra hugs from both of us.
  • I am going to help our kids enjoy this time to the best of my ability.
  • I am going to do that because I love you.
  • I am going to do that because you are right.

The true spirit of Christmas is "Happy Birthday Jesus"!!!

As a family we need to be singing that in our hearts. I'll think of you every time the words come to my mind. I love you. John


  1. Dad,
    I love you, I love you, I love you. I wish I knew the best way to wrap my arms you around and make the pain go away. I don't want you to feel lonely or alone, but know there is nothing I can do...I'm not Mom. But know, I love you, you can be with us anytime you never even need to call, just come over and spend time. Or call...I will come be with you anytime, anywhere. I want so badly to be a support to you, but don't always know how. Please let me, please tell me. Do what you need to alone, then open yourself to us.
    Joel and I love you and every person in our families love you more than words can express. You are not alone.
    Julie Ann

  2. John,

    There is a four-part series of booklets that were of great help to me when Marilyn died and I began going through some of what you are experiencing right now. If you would like to email me your mailing address to I would be glad to send them to you.
    Your fellow traveler,
    Milt Olsen