Last Christmas my son was at The Castle.
Don’t think Downton Abbey, or Cinderella & Prince-Charming kinds of Castles. I am referring to The Castle in Brockton, MA – the short term addiction treatment program for kids 13 – 19 years old.
My son was 19 when we sectioned him to detox; he was not happy with us. Yet, he had excellent care at The Castle and his detox counselor was able to meet my son square-on; good progress was made and my son knew why we did what we did.
However, after 5 clean months, a relapse and overdose took my son from this earth. His detox counselor called me when she heard about his death and was devastated. As we talked, she wept with me and confessed:
“I lied to him; I told him he would have many Christmases to enjoy with his family – that this was just one Christmas to work through to have many more in the future.”
“You did not lie, you were encouraging him to be motivated to pursue clean and sober living – you were extending hope to him.”
And that is the truth.
I look back and remember packing eight of us up with gifts, in two cars, twice, to try and make it through a blizzard to get to The Castle to see him on Christmas day, last year; it consumed our entire day.
Hours of tedious driving later, we arrived. Big hugs were given, animated conversation and laughs filled the glass atrium as snow continued to fall outside. My son’s face literally lit up with joy and relief at seeing his family. What a glorious moment! My heart tucked that entire scene away and logged it as: precious-memory-to-keep-forever.
Some look back with sadness and think he had the worst Christmas last year and he will never have another one to enjoy… just like his detox counselor thought. And, that it was our worst Christmas too.
I beg to differ, actually.
Last Christmas was very intentional – one that was not taken for granted because it was full of purposeful action to show our son how much he was loved. I know my son knew that – it was written all over his face for that full hour we got to spend with him. Deep down, he knew he was totally loved, and in some ways, it was a best Christmas for him I think; the usual traditions were up-ended, they weren’t there to distract everyone from the total focus of love.
After all – that’s the whole point of Christmas isn’t it? It’s not about the trimmings and the traditions/expectations and the lazy MO of the day. It’s entirely about love.
This is a painting that my son painted before addiction took over his brain and claimed his life. He loved to paint and draw; it brought a sense of peace to his being.
Notice the star – it was followed by some wise men long ago.
Notice the angel, front and center – it is a symbol of the Good News that God has for us all.
Notice the small yet perfect depiction of Jesus and his parents surrounded by those carefully crafted stones – humbly positioned in just the right place.
Jesus’ birth was intentional; let us not take his birth for granted… it is the beginning of God’s best show of love for us. We are each deeply loved by the Father and Jesus was willing to do what he did; be born, live to die, and rise… so we can go to heaven one day. This is the ultimate gift of love.
The message is simple.
Dear Detox counselor,
My son is now in the presence of Jesus this Christmas… and he will enjoy all Christmases eternally. Do not weep, dear detox counselor, for the earthly Christmases lost, for my son’s gain is far better!
Yes, my heart hurts and I miss him so very much!
Yet, … until I join him – I will keep following and keep sharing the good news!
Merry Christmas to all who read these words!