No Substitute for a Hug at Christmas

For a military family with a loved one away at Christmas, open your arms.

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Posted in , Dec 16, 2016

Hugs for a military family.

It was a cloudy Christmas afternoon that year. The presents had been opened, the food eaten and conversations had dwindled. We’d entered that awkward time of a visit when it was too early to leave, but we’d run out of things to do. That’s when my mother pulled out the box of old photos.

We gathered around the dining room table as she pulled out pictures one by one. There were numerous pictures of great-uncles and other relatives in various World War II uniforms. Mixed in were numerous newspaper clippings about the war. The snapshots drew me in since that Christmas my son was away at war.

I questioned my mother about that time. She didn’t remember personally, but knew the stories handed down by her mother and grandmother. Unlike today’s conflicts, their only method of communication with those at the front was through letters, newspaper reports and telegrams.

She shared about one Christmas when her uncle had appeared in the distance, walking down the dirt road outside her grandmother’s house. He’d gotten leave at the last minute and had no way to let the family know he was coming. Tears welled in my eyes as I imagined the joy of that particular homecoming and the emptiness of my current Christmas without my son at home.

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I shook off the doldrums and tried to put my situation in perspective, “At least now we have regular communication with our families.”

“In some ways that’s true.” My mother put her arm around me. “But the times are more alike than you may think. There’s no substitute for a hug.”

She was right. Nothing could take the place of a hug from a son. But there were other hugs that helped–from my mother that day, from a friend who noticed when I was feeling low, from a stranger at the post office when she noticed I was sending a package to a soldier.

We can’t replace the hugs of the loved ones who are serving miles from home this holiday season. However, we can offer comfort with an embrace when we reach out to those with a loved one who’s not able to make it home for Christmas. 

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