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We bought a new star this year, a Moravian star with punched design. As it hangs from the porch, it sends out fragments of light in all directions. Designs on the dark in small doses. Small pieces of light for this seaIMG_3758son.

On Sunday morning during worship, the fourth Sunday of Advent, we read from the Christmas liturgy: “Too often we are indifferent to those for whom this is not a season of joy.”

When I sat down to write some cards to friends and family, I found myself instead writing notes to several people who had lost loved ones or who were in some distress, those who might not be finding this a season of joy because a child had died or a spouse had died or a mother was slowly dying. I am not sure those will be the Christmas cards others expected, and I apologize for missing so many who might need an encouraging word— but wait: maybe this is my Christmas letter to them and to the rest of us.

To the young mother and her son whose husband and father died: I hope that you find some fragments of light in these dim days and nights. Even if the bright lights of Christmas seem too garish this year, may your family and friends hold you close and remember that grief is not a process that takes just a couple of weeks.

To the mother whose son died and whose other son is recovering from injuries in a car crash: I hope that you and your family are surrounded by the light of love from family and friends who care so much for you.

To the dear friend whose adult daughter died of cancer this year: I offer some of that starlight to illuminate the path of your grief and surround you with memory.

To the family who lost not only a mother and wife but a daughter and sister to breast cancer, you already shine so much light for the world with the candles you make, so I hope that some of that warmth and light surrounds you too.

These are not part of the Christmas letters sent by families for whom the year has been mostly happy with news of children’s births and accomplishments and trips and travel. So I offer my star light, fragmented but hopeful all the same, for all those who may not be finding so much joy in this season.

I can use some of that light during this December too, remembering my daughter whose birth was on the last day of the year, who has been missing from our lives for 19 Christmases and 19 birthdays.

Some of the Farther Along mothers in correspondences this week wished others a low-key Christmas (although for those with children still at home, good luck with that!). Borrowing Dottye’s words, we are “Happy to celebrate our lives as we know them now and to remember quietly the many Christmases before.”

This season, live lightly with your heavy hearts.