Snowflakes, candy canes, gingerbread people, twinkling lights, letters that begin, "Dear Santa, I’ve been good. I want, wish, dream to have …”
Expect, anticipate, and maybe, it will … or it won’t … happen.
We hope it won’t rain during a wedding. We hope our sniffle doesn’t turn into a cold. We hope our interview lands us a job. We hope that small box wrapped in gold foil under the Christmas tree contains the promise and hope of a future from that special someone we love.
Hope is the belief in your mind that all things positive will touch your life. Negative events will turn around in a positive light. Hope is refusing to believe that all is not okay. Hope is a goal achieved, not a whim or fantasy but something worked for, planned for, anticipation made tangible and real.
Hope is the truth and joy of life. Hope is not a promise of the future. We want what we hope for, but hope is the courage for a chance of something better.
Hope is precarious. Delicate. A wisp of a dream. When hope is crushed or crumbled, our souls disappear.
Life didn't happen the way I hoped it would - by being good. Losing hope was sleeping on the floor, cold through my toes, shivering, exposed. No purpose in life. No will to go on. I survived a religious cult with a pervasive culture of misogyny, emotional and physical abuse by my father and my first husband, their control and lies.
I didn’t survive when my tiny disabled son perished … I didn't know … why did he die? Or when my young daughter was torn away by Child Protective Services and given to her abusive father to raise. Though I cried, warned, and knew that he would hurt her, no one listened to me. I spent that first wretched Christmas without my children, curled into a sobbing, angled ball. Alone. I felt forsaken and so overwhelmed with grief, I forgot how to breathe.
I was a nothing against the world, wandering without purpose, no longer a daughter, a wife, a mother … after I was accused of my son’s … murder.
When hope perished for me, I wanted to drift with it. Into an abyss. And stay. From not so far away, my son heard me cry. He stepped across the divide from where he was and came back to where I was. He didn’t appear as a ghost or a spirit or as dead. From the other side, my son knew where I was and the plan I had made. To end my pain.
He called upon me as I wished and hoped he would be: whole, happy, restored. He touched my soul with a whisper of hope and told me it wasn’t my time to go. My work here wasn’t over. I needed to live because his sister needed me to survive and fight for her right - to be a child - and live without fear of displeasing her father.
Hope was the reason I kept on breathing. Hope gave my wounded wings power to heal and fly. Purpose and passion bloomed and gave me strength to survive that awful Christmas ... and the next ... until my daughter was able to come back to me. As I knew he would, her father physically, emotionally, and sexually abused her. We had a lot of healing to do.
I cannot forget that past. It haunts my sleep with nightmares and my waking hours with fear, grief, and PTSD. When panic tries to call, I pin my hope on the Christ of Christmases past - before my son died and the lives of my daughter and I were turned upside down. Christ was my hope that one day, the true facts of who killed my son would be exposed to the light and justice would be restored.
Christ is my joy and life. He gave me the courage to become my children’s’ voice when they couldn’t speak for themselves.
It’s difficult to have a Merry Christmas when we are lonely or stressed. Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy: a family gathering, gifts under the tree, caroling off key, knocking on neighbors' doors, a birthday celebration for the world.
Christmas is supposed to be a time of renewed hope—not hope in a particular political concept or a religious sect, but hope in baby Jesus the Christ. Hope that, despite human bungling and fallacies, God will bring order and hope out of chaos or despair.
What are you hoping for this year? World peace? Happiness, money, stability, joy, balance, fulfillment, confidence, passion, a new car? Once upon a time, all I hoped for was … the impossible. I wanted time to replay. I wanted my son alive and my daughter back in my arms. My wishes came true - in God's time. My son is alive and waiting for me in the next dimension of life, and my daughter is grown with young ones of her own. I hug them all every chance I get. God is good. He gave me the patience to wait for it.
I hope this Christmas season finds you with friends who care when you are down, family who aren’t yours only by blood, but family who stick by your side and defend you in a fight in both low and high tides. May the joy of life and Christ enrich your soul and stuff your stocking full, hung on the chimney or strung on a string on a wall - wherever you are. Merry Christmas and love to you all!
For more stories about the heritage of hope:
True Crime Memoir – Survivor: As Long As I Breathe
is dedicated to:
survivors of emotional, physical, spiritual, or sexual abuse,
those who have had to bury a murdered child,
former members of a religious cult based on misogyny,
children born with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome,
and anyone who was falsely accused of a crime.
Joyce A Lefler is a true crime survivor and the author of
From Miracle to Murder: Justice For Adam.
She is a facilitator for Parents of Murdered Children,
a bereavement counselor, registered nurse,
and an advocate against abuse.
Connect with her: