The Season of Comings and Goings


Another Christmas has come and gone. The tree is outside on the deck for the birds to enjoy; the wreath, brown and dry, is feeding the soil on the other side of the fence.

All the lights are wrapped up (with their extension cords this time!) and put away.

And the letdown after Christmas begins. Every ornament carefully placed in the box, each stocking taken down reminds me of the family time I still crave and so cherish.

Copyright 2012 Susan W. Bailey. All rights reserved.

My son and daughter at 31 and 28 are adults, each with significant others (one to marry in the spring). Each is seeking to carve out their own Christmas traditions. The one to be married (my daughter) is just beginning the juggling we used to do with family from both sides in close proximity.

Christmases used to be hectic and exhausting and now they are quiet. Be careful what you wish for!

While we still go from house to house there are only two we need to visit now. My parents are gone and my sister lives far away in Alabama.

The gift-giving is simplified (no more stockings); it is easier to appreciate what each person has received and revel in the reactions of those receiving that special gift.

A quiet Christmas has the dark side of melancholy; this was particularly true as I attended my first Midnight Mass (singing with the choir). The sadness had already cropped up on Christmas Eve as I felt the pangs of grief while missing my parents. At church I longed for the company of my children who, for the time being, have stepped away. The pain was so great that I almost had to leave the church. After taking the Eucharist, the grace from my Lord began to soothe my soul.

I finally accepted the empty nest and even enjoy it most days. I take great pleasure in the activities of my grown children; we chat often and still talk deeply at times. We’re down to the home stretch on the wedding plans; May 27th will be a glorious day. But the grief from their leaving lurks underneath and the holiday season brings it to the surface yet again.

This is the cost of love and I would not have it any other way. The years of active motherhood were filled with the competing interests of husband, kids, job and a creative life that demanded my attention at the most inopportune moments. I am glad I don’t have to do it again and yet I would do it in a heartbeat.

I think of my cousin whose baby was born a few weeks before Christmas; she will have to do that same juggling act. I reached out to her and offered a seasoned ear. Motherhood definitely requires a village!

Life never follows a straight line though I often wish it would. It’s messy with twists and turns, filled with heartache and great joy. You live it and then you wonder how you ever did it. Somehow at each turn, grace provided the means to navigate the course, even when you didn’t ask for it. God is never far away.

Thomas Hawk madonna and child, Flickr Creative Commons

So as I turn the page of another Christmas I am thankful for the many blessings that came from the joy, the grief and the unexpected places where it took me. Keeping our Lord in view, pondering the mystery of God come down to us in the most vulnerable of all forms (a newborn baby) and in turn, lifting us up to Him, makes sense of the messiness of the holiday season and beyond. Gazing upon the Madonna and Child and reflecting as she did upon the mystery that cannot be solved can put everything in perspective. The Blessed Mother knows what this mother is feeling, having felt it herself. There is no better companion for the journey.

Copyright 2017 Susan W. Bailey


About Author

Susan Bailey is an writer, speaker and musician. She is the author of River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult Times, published by Ave Maria Press, and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message, part of the Literary Portals to Prayer series published by ACTA Publications. Along with her own blogs Be As One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion), Susan frequently contributes to and the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers. She has also contributed to and Catholic Online. Susan writes articles and a monthly column known as Be as One for the Diocese of Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press. Bailey, who works as a marketing/advertising assistant for a local real estate firm, is an associate member of the Commission for Women of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, where previously she served as chair and secretary, helping to organize the biennial “Gather Us In” women’s conference, one of the first major Catholic women’s conferences in the country. As part of her duties she wrote the monthly column for The Catholic Free Press known as “Concerning Women” and appeared on CatholicTV’s “This is the Day” to promote the conference. A professional musician and graphic artist, Bailey released four CDs, performed on EWTN, CatholicTV and World Youth Day 2002, and worked as a cantor in her parish of St. Luke the Evangelist for fifteen years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (with concentrations in US History and Music) from Bridgewater State University. She and her husband, Rich, have two grown children and live in North Grafton, Massachusetts. Susan invites you to join her email list where you will receive updates on exciting professional developments and speaking engagements. Email subscribers also receive special giveaways and previews of new projects. Susan loves a good conversation and looks forward to corresponding with you! Join here.


  1. Thank you! It sounds like your empty nesting days are going well; it can be a very exciting and fun time. The planning for our daughter’s wedding in May has been exciting and wonderful. It’s great seeing the kids as full-fledged adults.

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