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Holidays In Prison

chrustmas in prison

This is my favorite time of year!  Christmas is almost here.  Everyone is pausing from their regular routine to find ways to connect with family and friends. Not even COVID19 will put a damper on my excitement to celebrate Christmas.  Nothing can steal my joy during Christmas! Not ever again.  I made that decision years ago after returning home from a prison visiting room.

The highlight of Christmas was always opening gifts with my family.  The thrill and anticipation of opening presents were as important and the present was itself.  When Ron went to prison, I learned that presents were terrific because so many people I cared about were there to celebrate with me.  Take away the people, and the gifts became just that, stuff.  Stuff that cannot replace a person I love, cannot satisfy my longing to be affirmed, and cannot create memories to be shared.  Ron going to prison made me realize being together meant more to me than any gift.  The first Christmas in prison changed how I saw this holiday.

Pain and grief gripped my heart as I faced the holiday season alone with my sons for the first time.  

I was not looking forward to it, not one little bit.  Christmas was coming quickly, and I struggled to find a way to make it feel joyous for my sons. I did not have much money to buy them gifts, but I knew I had to do something special for them.  I knew Ron’s absence was felt deeply by them, too.  As I considered how to overcome the pain and make the best of our situation, I decided to plan a special visit to see Ron with the boys.  We would celebrate Christmas the best we could in the visiting room.  We would still plan something for Christmas Day, but I really wanted this visit to be our “Christmas.”  I also desperately wanted to get Ron a gift that would make him smile.

family christmas cards

I thought and thought about what I could get for Ron.  I finally decided on a Food Box and a Sundry Box. The boys and I shopped for their Daddy and placed everything lovingly into a box.  At that time, we could purchase items and ship items directly to the prison ourselves.  (Now, families must buy everything from vendors to be shipped directly to the prisons.)  We had so much fun buying things we knew he would enjoy!  I was sure this activity would make our Christmas a good one despite Ron being gone.  Hope sprouted as we put our plan into motion.

We traveled to the prison for our Christmas visit with Daddy.

The boys and I were all dressed up and ready to celebrate together as a family.  It was a wonderful time together!  We ate vending food, played games, and laughed together.  Then, the Man in Gray stood up and yelled, “Time to say your good-byes.  Visits are over.”  I did not want to leave. I didn’t want to go home to an empty house and spend Christmas without Ron.  I remember how the boys and I clung to Ron.  How I choked back the sobs that rushed up from my heart, and how I finally pulled the boys off their Daddy so we could leave.  The shopping and planning for this particular visit had not quieted the disappointment and anguish we felt about Ron being in prison for the holidays as I had hoped it would. 

That evening, Ron called me to express the love he felt from receiving such a special gift.  After our visit, the prison allowed us to pick up both the boxes we sent to him. He was thrilled.  Ron told us about his plans to share the treats with others who didn’t have any family.  He also told us that the best gift he had received was time with us.  Ron reminded me that we had created lasting memories of a fun time together in the visiting room.  We didn’t have turkey and all the trimmings, or homemade pie, or any gifts to open together.  Being together mattered more than any of those things.  Conviction pierced my heart.  I was making Christmas all about RON.  Not about the real reason for this holiday.

Related article: 20 Inexpensive Christmas Gifts

I began to understand that my circumstances have nothing to do with the value of Christmas.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Our Savior was born in a lowly manger and changed the world. In my selfishness, I had put conditions on Christmas. I had decided that it was only worth celebrating if I got my way.  Ouch.  Christmas is worthy of our celebration regardless of what else may be happening. 

As you prepare for Christmas, decide that you will celebrate it with all the joy it deserves.  

Do your best to include all your family traditions, gather with your loved ones as much as you can, send your husband a food box, or some of the other gifts I have blogged about.  Most of all, celebrate!  Focus on the reason for Christmas and build your memories around the birth of Christ. By keeping Christ as the center of Christmas, you will find joy this season. You will also be helping your children prepare for the future by teaching them the reason we celebrate Christmas.  There is no better gift you can give to your children.  

No matter what may be going on in your life right now, there is never a good reason to stop celebrating the greatest gift of all… Christ.  

I am rooting for you!