One of my favorite sayings in life is, “Don’t you love it when a plan comes together.” It’s great when something works out, when something you were planning for or hoping for just seems to be fulfilled.

We all make plans, for things large and small. When Iwas a teenager, (which only goes to show how good a memory I have) I had plans. I wanted to have a motor bike, which of course I was HOPING my Dad would buy me for my 16th birthday. But my Dad was wiser than that and taught me the biggest lesson of my life. He told me that I had to buy it myself with my own money, which obviously I had to work for all summer!! He knew that if I earned it myself, I would be more likely to look after it. And I remember when after those months of hard work, that plan came together and I had my BSA C15.

I had lots of plans for my life. In fact I had a SCRIPT for my life. I had it all worked out. I would go to university and earn a degree, find a career; I would meet and marry the most wonderful woman in the world, and have a family; and the script I had written assumed that at the end of my life I would be able to say that “ they lived happily ever after.” Most of us hope that those will be the final words written in our life script.

But sometimes life doesn’t always go according to plan. Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley, and leave us naught but grief and pain, for promised joy.”

Life doesn’t always work out the way you expect. And when you experience a loss or a bereavement, we struggle not only with the loss of that person we loved and cared about, we are also left feeling that we have lost our script. This isn’t what was supposed to happen, this wasn’t what we signed up for. Although we all know that people die and things happen, we never expect it will happen to us, and we rarely make plans for it … and so it inevitably catches us by surprise. We never expect it to happen … and especially to US.

The Christmas story is all about people who made plans… but that didn’t work out exactly as they expected or according to their script.

Mary and Joseph planned a trip to Bethlehem, but didn’t plan to have a baby in a barn! They also hoped to go home afterwards, but instead were displaced to Egypt for two years.

The wise men saw the star in the east, and because they knew something significant was up, said, let’s make plans. Let’s go to Jerusalem and find out what’s happening. After all, if you are expecting to find a new born king, where would you go except to a royal palace right? Good plan!

Except when they get there, things don’t go accordingto plan. They announce that they have followed the star and are there to worship the new born King of the Jews. King Herod is disturbed by this news that another King has been born, so he calls the wise men and instructs them, “Change of plan, boys. Go to Bethlehem, find the child and then come back here and let me know what’s up.”

So guided by the star the wise men change their plans and come to Bethlehem where they find the child. They worship him, and then they present him with gifts. Probably when they left that manger, they would have high fived each other and said, “Don’t you love it when a plan comes together” … or words to that effect…

As you prepare for Christmas, let me share what I call ”The Grieving Person’s Gift List”:

My gift to me is to acknowledge that the anticipation of the holidays can often be much worse than the actual event

My gift to me is to acknowledge my “wish list”: I will put up a tree “if I wish”; send cards “if I wish”; and only do things “if I wish.”

My gift to me is not to allow others to force me to do things I don’t want to do. “Ought” and “should” aren’t going to work this year.

My gift to me is to remember something special about the one who died and share that memory with those who support me.

My gift to me is remembering not only to grieve what I have lost, but to be thankful for what I still have.

My gift to me is to celebrate what and who I HAVE, as well as realizing what andwho and what I am missing.

My gift to me is not to make the mistake of believing that having a good time or enjoying Christmas is disrespectful to the one I love.

My gift to me is to surround myself with those who respect my need for harmony and well-being during this season of peace and goodwill.

But just as they are ready to go back to Jerusalem, God speaks to them in a dream. “Sorry fellas, but there’s another unexpected change of plan. Don’t go back to Herod; change your travel plans and your direction for the homeward journey. Take a different route and go home by a different way.”

When someone we love and care about dies, life suddenly says, “Oops! Sorry! Change of plan.” We suddenly find ourselves in a situation we don’t want, we don’t like and worst of all, that we can’t change. When someone dies, everything changes, and suddenly the whole world looks and feels different.

Life takes on a whole new direction, and we have to find ways to accommodate that change.

The wise men returned home and said, “Well, it wasn’t exactly what we thought was going to happen or want we had planned or expected, but you know what, after all is said and done, it has all worked out.”

Life for many of you has taken a turn in a whole new direction recently, and it may take you a while, but eventually, our hope is that you will be able to look back and say, it wasn’t exactly what we expected, but it worked out.

Check out my video and articles on the site here for more support as you go through this Christmas season that possibly may seem “Anything but Merry.”