When I was too young to experience Black Friday, I still knew the day after Thanksgiving meant the beginning of the soul-tingling Christmas season. Whether it was in conversation, or on television, or in my feverishly open mind, I was anticipating all the lovely Life trimmings at Christmas time. Literally, Santa was Life’s star in my eyes. The thought of a big, jolly man in a red suit adorned with soft white cuffs filled me with the kind of Hope I only felt at this special time of year. Whenever I imagined Santa, he wore a huge, show-his-teeth kind of smile while he promptly delivered Christmas surprises to all the world’s children. I was in amazement each holiday season of Santa’s ability to assign specially chosen presents just for me.
When my parents were still married, I recall my brother and I bringing our stockings in their bed, a structure I am sure that was adapted for the early-morning nature of the excitement. Though finances were never flowing freely for my parents, they seemed happy at the holidays…… not as joyous, perhaps, as the rosy-cheeked Santa with the button nose. As I look back, I can see my mom’s smile while she held my grumpy toddler brother. Me, the older sister with maternal instincts, raised up a small gift in offering to cheer him. To this day, I can remember my child-heart swelling, overflowing at Christmas time, with ideas about giving. My memories of this time are surrounded with the aroma of a freshly-cut tree, decorated with some of my own Kindergarten creations.
On Christmas Day, my Mimi [my mom’s mom] would make a big turkey dinner. Though I routinely passed on Mimi’s Brussel sprouts and turnips, I relished in the love of a warm house, filled to the brim with once a year delicacies. My Mimi would make me pinwheel cookies, from scratch. They were as circular as you get when you hand-make cookie dough, and each cookie was a festive swirl of alternating red and green pinstripes. Their taste is distant in my mind’s eye, but I still feel extremely special when I remember Mimi made them just for me.
Somewhere around age 8, I demanded the truth about my beloved Santa from my mom. I had been watching one of those Christmas specials on TV [this was way before DVDs and DVRs]. Well, let’s just say my Mom knew better, that if I was questioning the logic of reindeer eating magic feed to fly….or how Santa was raised by a huge family with the last name of Kringle who made toys for a living…….that surely I had lost the innocent belief in a Super Human Santa who served every child around the globe with a twinkle in his eye.
There was once a Christmas Eve, I decided to lie in wait for this saint who pulled wrapped packages out of a huge sack that survived a sleigh flight at mock speed. I never was one to stay up late, and in my sleepiness I recall hearing the jingle of sleigh bells. I was most sure of that….. then, the accompanying usual “knocks and creaks” seemed to point to the landing of several reindeer on our rooftop. Completely convicted, I awoke with an ever-fervent wonder for that blessed Santa.
However, when I bravely confronted my mom for answers, as logic was beginning to crowd the aura of magic in my mind, she told me the truth. Instantly, I cried.
Losing Santa was my first official loss in this life. At this young age of 8, I did not know what lie ahead in terms of my parents’ divorce and a long line of death, beginning with my great-grandmother who passed away at her sweet age of 89. Life would dramatically change at age 10, and the idea of Santa would be long left behind.
Santa represented a faith in an unseen. My belief in this myth of a man was firm until that fateful night when the truth shattered my hope and dreams of a Santa who would always visit on Christmas Eve, no matter what.
Mom acknowledged my grief. Perhaps, she understood on a level of childlike faith herself, though I will never know many truths of my mom, who died at age 40, on December 20, 1991. The night I found out the truth, Mom offered the 8 year-old me a copy of the letter written to the 8 year-old Virginia O-Hanlon. This famous letter entitled “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” is now a book and a DVD. When my mom took it out to show me, it was a folded yellowed newspaper clipping. In my heart, I can safely assume this treasured piece of history was handed down among the generations of women in my mom’s family.
Hmmm, I just remember sorrow in the pit of my soul, and crying as if someone I loved had died. After all, without Santa, there was no room for Love unseen. I was a sensitive, smart 8-year-old. There were many tensions in our household and some illogical things in our family that did not make sense to me. All I knew was that Santa Claus, the simple road to happiness, had been deleted from my world.
Moreover, the letter written to little Virginia did not offer much comfort. Ironically, the letter documented a lofty explanation of how Santa represents Love and Goodness in a broken world. This was entirely applicable to my situation. However, for me at age 8, it was preferable to return to believing, with my whole heart, that Santa Claus and his mission were real.
My Mom and Dad introduced me to the joy of Christmas and taught me about the excitement of giving gifts as well as the awe of receiving stockings full of treasure and spying gifts piled high under the tree. It is with honor that I say I learned that part of parenting from them; the part where you give up some of yourself to provide your children with the feeling that they are special, that they are chosen to receive such wonderful things in love. It is with sadness in my heart, however, that I look back and see rather clearly now that my parents did not feel or acknowledge love from our Father in Heaven. After a long, question- filled journey, I offer my heart in forgiveness to each of them for not teaching me about God. How could they have given me something they did not have?
The letter addressed to Virginia O’Hanlon is what my mom did have and did offer to me, after I learned Santa was not a person in this Life. Both my parents, after their divorce, continued to celebrate Christmas with us, in the best possible way they knew how. From my mom, I learned the sweetness in offering someone a gift uniquely chosen for them. My brother and I made her a photo album one year of pictures of us; she loved it. From my dad, I learned to fully take in each moment of joy as it is given.
My dad exuded child-like laughter when he received the gifts my brother and I chose for him. With his whole heart, my dad let us know he appreciated what we did for him. My dad died suddenly on December 15, 2005. His heart gave up, after a short lifetime of experiencing emotion to its absolute fullest.
It is interesting now that I am 45 years old, a wife and a mother of two boys. It is Jesus who has restored my faith in love unseen; Jesus has shared with me the Truth in living out my faith and loving God with all my heart and soul. God has led me out of the darkness of depression and bitterness surrounding the losses in my life and has taught me to be thankful for what is in front me. With the Holy Spirit alive in me, I am slowly returning to the servant’s heart in its purity, as when I sought to bring my mom joy with her chosen gift. My heart is opening to fully allow myself to experience the wonder in life, in the exact moment I feel it, as my dad so willingly modeled. Wrapping my arms around the fullness of life means embracing the pain with as much expectancy as I embrace the blessings.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Psalm 86:15 NIV But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV
Julie Dibble is a woman who lived most of her life without God. Coming to Christ in her 40’s has been humbling, healing and holy. She is thankful God blessed her with family: Jason, her husband who serves as a patrol officer; Braedon, age 11, the amazing reader, writer and thinker and Jackson, age 9, whose love of sports has earned him the nickname “Action Jackson”. Julie has been a stay-at-home mom for the past four years. After a transformative experience in the fall of 2014, she was led to become a Christian speaker and author. She has a passion for truth; her mission is to empower Faith as the best choice in a difficult world. “Let Love and Be a Light” is Julie’s wisdom for loving like Jesus on a daily basis.
With a master’s in counseling, Julie brings clinical significance to her ministry. Currently, Julie’s ministry includes all non-believers, spouses of emergency responders/military service providers; all those who struggle with depression; and all women who just need a Faith-lift.
Residing in Central PA, Julie is available anywhere in Pennsylvania and its neighboring states for speaking engagements. You may find her on http://www.facebook.com/ Julie Ann Dibble or http://www.twitter.com/@ julie_dibble. Any questions? Please contact her directly at [email protected].