Few things on this earth bring people together more than the holiday season.
For a majority, this means the celebration of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year — the holy trinity.
A typical American might spend November and December eating ridiculous amounts of turkey and ham, celebrating glorious gifts we receive from that odd aunt we’ve never met, and going sledding on every slanted surface in town.
But for some, the holidays aren’t so magical.
Imagine sitting around the Thanksgiving table with your close family, quietly eating the dry turkey your grandmother makes every year. Everyone is silent, only the noise of forks on plates and loud, open-mouthed chewers break through the stagnant air, making a sallow symphony rhythm.
Everyone watches the empty seat at the head of the table, and notice the empty place setting set down before it.
Imagine waking up on Christmas morning to melancholy faces, and disastrously wrapped presents.
‘Dad tried his best’ you whisper to your little brother, trying to keep a half-smile on your face. You should be smiling, but you just want Christmas to be over.
This is what the holidays are like for Jeff High senior Emanda Gibson.
This past August, Emandas’ mother, Donna, passed due to heart complications. She was 48 years old.
“My mom had been sick for a long time, but I was still shocked when she passed,” Emanda said.
Emanda’s mother had struggled for years with a heart condition, and was frequently in and out of the hospital. Despite these issues, she always managed to be home for the holidays.
Emanda describes her mom as being “radical about Christmas.”
“She always loved putting up decorations as soon as she could. My mom was always bright and happy, but Christmas time brought out the best in her,” Gibson said.
In the Gibson household, it’s a tradition that Emanda and her mom wear matching pajamas the night before Christmas. But this year, that tradition might end because “Christmas pajamas remind me too much of her.”
Emanda’s father, Mike, and older brother, Josh, didn’t share the same passion for the holidays as she and her mother did.
“We weren’t going to put up a Christmas tree or even go to Thanksgiving this year, but I knew she’d be upset if we didn’t,” Emanda said.
Despite attempts by her father to help bring the family close, Gibson gave a one word response to how her holiday season will feel this winter: “Lonely.”
For Emanda, the holidays will never be the same again.
This time of year, students are often occupied with what’s under the tree for them. They beg their parents for gifts they desperately want, excitedly hoping, even praying, that they’ll be there waiting for them to open on Christmas morning.
But what would Christmas be like for you, without that special person in your life?
“I hope everyone appreciates their parents, their grandparents, whoever takes care of them,” Gibson said. “Love them and be thankful for them, while you can.”