Note: There is an inaccuracy in this post. Contrary to what’s printed, there is an increase in deaths during the holiday season. For example, the prevalence of mental illnesses such as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) causes an increase in depression, which can result in more cases of suicide. I believe the point of this piece remains valid though: Deaths during the holiday season can have more of an emotional impact of surviving loved ones with each new season.
Have you ever noticed how tenuous everything can be sometimes? The stability of all we have and enjoy can be whisked away like vapor in what seems like the blinking of an eye.
I’m sure you’ve been told, in one form or another, to not take anything for granted. Most of us have heard a story, a testimony from someone about how they failed to kiss a loved one before leaving home one morning and to later receive news that the precious family member died in some horrible accident. The loss is some how made even more the worse when time is given to think about how love was not overtly shown to that beloved family member. The imbalance to one’s life, family structure, community can be emotionally devastating.
I’m hesitant to write about what follows; however, I feel a compulsion to do so. One of the things that motivated me to pen this piece is a question I received from a member of my Sunday school class yesterday. I’ve been an adult Sunday school teacher for almost thirty years, and on rare occasion I receive a question that’s sincere and needy of a response; however, I’m hard pressed to find a good answer, even in the sacred text. The question posed by one of my students was: Why does it seem like more people die in December, around what is seen as the most joyous holiday season of the year?
Some questions presented in my class fall like a brick, resulting in silence from the members and stares toward me. It’s as though I’m to recall the perfect scripture from some rarely visited room of the Bible to address the burning inquiry of the day. There were several students who quickly responded to this question, leaving me to listen and learn. The bottom line was that there are no more deaths during the holiday season than any other time of the year. It’s that death during a time when joy and celebration are supposed to be the norm has a greater impact, leaving survivors with memories that are much more haunting than if these tragedies occurred in May or August.
I think this question was prompted by my sharing a story that was very recent and personal. Thanksgiving was good this year. My oldest daughter and her husband, who live about two miles away, came to spend a couple of days with us. She volunteered to prepare the Thanksgiving meal. Might I say, we all ate more than necessary. Later, during the evening, while we were all sitting around the living room with over-taxed digestive systems, watching football, my cell phone rang. This was the disruption to the peaceful setting: There was a traffic accident on Interstate 30. One of my first cousins had lost her husband’s grandson, his son’s ex-wife and the stepdaughter of his son’s ex-wife. A tractor trailer rig had crashed into the back of the car driven by the granddaughter (16-years old) of my cousin’s husband. She was attempting to move back onto the interstate, after having pulled off. She was injured; however, her injuries weren’t life threatening. This young lady had just been given the car she was driving as an early Christmas gift. She’s now left to grieve the death of her mom, brother and stepsister.
A few imbalances: 1) children aren’t supposed to die before their parents; 2) the daughter is left to deal with the loss of her mom, brother and stepsister; 3) this happened during a time of holiday thanksgiving; 4) this tragedy reached deep and wide into an extended and blended family.
It’s almost impossible to know what to do when life throws you more lemons than you can muster up enough sugar to make lemonade. One can only prey that God’s mercy will be availed.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.
I’m so sad and sorry to read this. Life is not fair, and yet we have an inbuilt sense of justice that demands fairness. Maybe one day we will understand. My very deepest sympathy.
Faith tradition is strong in my family. We have suffered many a tragedy, but our confidence in God’s providence and His promise to usher us through all “valleys that shadow death” is real.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!
You know, I think statistically, there are more deaths during December than during other months of the year. Time magazine had an article about it in 2016. “For more than a decade, researchers have documented the fact that more people tend to die of heart-related disease around the Christmas and New Year’s holiday than at any other time of the year.” But they also die due to bad weather/drunken traffic, and I think suicide ticks up during this period of high expectations, too. Although I have no statistics for that.
But indeed, I agree that when people die during this period it is even more heartrending to read about and devastating to family who will from then on associate the holidays with that tremendous loss.
Your story of family loss is particularly devastating. I can’t even imagine how this young woman will cope with it. I hope she will receive a lot of really good professional counseling. The loss is, well, beyond words.
You’re right about the increase in numbers. Suicide numbers are certainly up. Research is key to some blog entries. I’ll have to make an adjustment Thanks.
No, but your main point is important, stats or not.