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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Holidays with Zoe Burton: A Time of Remembrance

 Holidays with Zoe Burton:  A Time of Remembrance

(I have so enjoyed getting to know Zoe Burton over the last week.   I thank her for her willingness to share here at Darcyholic Diversions, and I thank her for the depth of emotions she has been willing to share with us in the short story she has written below.  Wherever we go, there we are.  Don't be afraid to share your feelings at the holidays.  Hug a furry friend, find a friend and talk, write a story, sing a song and cherish your memories. I now turn it over to Zoe.  Don't forget to comment below for a chance to win her drawing! Barbara Tiller Cole)

First, I would like to thank Barb for inviting me to share with you! Thanks, Barb!!  :)

For many of us, myself included, Christmas is a difficult time of year. If you have hooked up with me on Facebook, you probably already know that I put up my Christmas tree the other night. This is the first time in years that I have decorated, and to be honest, I only did so because I felt like I could not live in Burton Cottage and not decorate, at least a bit. What you don’t know is that I was hit with a mass of unexpected emotions, and sobbed my way through the assembly of the actual tree. Unlike Elizabeth Darcy in my story, I did not have a Mr. Darcy to comfort me.
As my sobs lessened to merely tears running down my cheeks, I began to pray and to consider ways that I could get through this season without coming unglued on someone. In the end, I remembered the Reason for this season.
I truly tried to write a fluffy, upbeat story full of hope, because, quite frankly, I could use some myself. Sadly, that is just not possible for me at this point in my life. Maybe next year.   I was not happy with this little tidbit when I wrote it, but I ran it past a friend, who said that it was sweet, but not “merry.” What it is, is honest, and possibly a bit raw. I dedicate this little one-shot story to all of us who struggle, for whatever reason, to get through this season of unrelenting Bingley-like creatures greeting us with cheer. Remember that there is hope that one day, our pain will lessen and we, too, can be reasonable facsimiles of Charles and Jane Bingley.

After you read, feel free to leave a comment. I am offering one commenter two of my ebooks…if you win, you get to choose any two of my titles and I will send you a link that allows you to download them.  A commenter will be drawn next Sunday night 11:59 pm.  Please include your email address in your post if you are not already connected to Zoe or Barbara.  Thanks and Good luck!

A Christmas for Remembering

Zoe Burton

The last few Christmas seasons had been difficult for Elizabeth Bennet Darcy. Eight years previously, her beloved father, Thomas Bennet, had passed from this earth a mere fortnight before the celebration of the Savior’s birth. Two years after that, just when she was regaining a sense of normalcy, her mother passed, on the very day that marked Mr. Bennet’s death. Elizabeth held her breath the following Christmastide, ending the season with a sense of relief that everyone she loved had survived. However, the following year, four years after her father and two after her mother, Elizabeth’s sister Lydia died in childbirth. While she was not close to that particular sibling, she was a sister, and Elizabeth had loved her. Within days of the notification of Lydia’s death, word was received at Pemberley of the deaths of her Aunt Philips and her cousin-by-marriage, Anne de Bourgh. All three had passed within days of each other, in the same week that marked the passing of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.
Elizabeth had been devastated to lose so many people she loved within such a short span…five family members in as many years, and all during the weeks leading up to Christmas. She began to dread the month of December, and refused to participate in the decorating of the house. The housekeeper who had replaced Mrs. Reynolds, Mrs. Baker, took over that duty. Of course, while the family was in mourning, there were no decorations at all, but the following years, Mrs. Baker did her utmost to assure that Pemberley was as festive as she could make it.
Darcy was worried about his wife, though he tried not to let it show. Elizabeth was still witty and charming, but there was a sense of sadness about her now that had never been present before. He tried to talk to her about it many times, but every time, she simply assured him she was well and changed the subject.
After three more tense Christmas seasons with no deaths, Elizabeth began to once again relax, and as this fourth December approached, she finally opened up to her husband about her feelings. Darcy was relieved to see that his beloved wife’s sadness seemed to lift after their discussion, and she began taking an interest in some of the activities she had given up during her time of grief, including making plans to decorate for the Christmas season.
Christmas Eve arrived, and with the help of the staff, Elizabeth began to place the greenery, mistletoe, and kissing boughs that she so loved in the yellow drawing room where the family and visitors would all see them. She started out well enough, though rather more stoically than might be expected. Suddenly, in the midst of arranging a spray of pine on the mantel, Elizabeth began to sob. The pain of her losses, that she had thought she had overcome, attacked her senses unexpectedly. The maids who were with her froze for a few minutes, uncertain about what to do. Eventually, though, one took off out the door to find Mrs. Baker, and another ran to the study for Darcy, while the third led her mistress to the settee and settled with her there, wrapping her arms around Elizabeth and speaking soothing words.
Darcy was seated at the desk in the study, reading a letter from his cousin, when someone began knocking frantically at the door.
The door swung open, and a panicked maid stepped in, speaking even as she curtseyed. “Begging your pardon, sir, but Mrs. Darcy needs you.”
As the maid expected, that was all it took for Darcy to rise from his seat and stride to the door.
“Where is she?”
“The yellow drawing room, sir.”
Darcy was gone before she finished speaking, bounding up the stairs to the indicated chamber. He entered to find his wife held tightly by another of the maids and sobbing as though her heart were breaking. The servant, having heard him enter, rose to allow him access to his wife, whom he picked up. Seating himself with her in his lap, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders and her waist and held her tightly to himself. He let her cry her sorrow out until Mrs. Baker arrived, and then, after quietly asking the housekeeper to finish the decorations herself, rose with Elizabeth in his arms and carried her to their chambers.
Settling her on the bed, Darcy joined her there, leaning against the headboard and cuddling her beside him, once again wrapped in his embrace. Her tears had subsided, and she began to explain to him her feelings. When she had finished, they were quiet for a while, considering her words and working out in their heads a method to get her through this time.
“I am so sorry, Fitzwilliam. I had thought I was recovered from my grief.”
“No, no, you have nothing to be sorry for. You have done well in the last months, and I see the renewed joy in your mien and in your behavior. This is simply a minor setback.” Darcy paused while Elizabeth nodded, her hair rubbing his coat and becoming mussed. “What can we do to remind you of the joy of the season?”
“I do not know,” she replied in a small voice.
They thought a while longer, and soon an idea came to him. “What if…Elizabeth, you have heard of the Tractarians and the old Christmas traditions they have added to their celebrations, have you not?”
“Yes, I have. The group wishes to incorporate more High Church celebrations than we have had in the past. My sister Mary has written of the Eucharist being taken at the church in Meryton.”
“Why do they do these things? What is the purpose of such celebrations?”
“To remember the gift of the Christ child.”
Darcy nodded. “Yes, a gift, the ultimate gift, to each of us. A new life, should we choose to accept it.”
Elizabeth nodded again, not sure where he was going with it, but beginning to feel some excitement.
“My love, you have suffered great losses at this time of year, and it has been a painful season for you for a long time. However, you have been given a gift, a great and wonderful gift, and I believe that you may need a reminder of it to help you retain your joy during this next fortnight. What say you to asking Mr. Sawyer to carve us a Nativity scene? You know he is able to work quickly and still create quality items. He has made many toys for our children over the years, some of them last-minute. We could set the crèche up in the drawing room, where you can see it and remember.”
“Oh, Fitzwilliam! I love that idea! Let us go find him now and make our request.”
Darcy readily agreed, and the couple rode out to the woodcutter’s house to describe what they needed. Over the course of the next three days, Mr. Sawyer carved a Christ child in a manger, a Joseph, and a Mary, as well as a small stable to set them in. The Darcys set the arrangement up in the drawing room, just as they had discussed. They had many visitors between Christmas Day and Twelfth Night, and the couple took great pride in describing the scene and the reason for having it.
Elizabeth had other moments that season and in future Christmas seasons where grief tried to overtake her. When it happened, she made her way to her favorite Christmas decoration and contemplated the gift of the child given to all men by God. She knew that she would meet Him in heaven one day, when it was her turn to pass from this life, and she rejoiced in the surety of her salvation.
Zoe Burton, Author
Member, Austen Authors, PAN member-Romance Writers of America, and Jane Austen Society of North America

My Blog: Austen Promises
My Amazon Author Page


  1. Made me tear up...warmed my heart at the same time. Well done.

    1. Thanks, Pamela! I started crying again just reading the intro I wrote. Since writing this, I have had a chance to talk with my pastor's wife, who is also my friend (and the co-pastor of the church), and she encouraged me to do more than the tree...to step out in faith, as it were. So now, my mantel is decorated, as well. :)

  2. that was sad, until the end

    meikleblog (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. I cried when I wrote it....and almost just pitched it and told Barbara that I could not participate. I'm glad, though, that the end was better. I wanted to end on a hopeful note. Best wishes in the drawing! :)

  3. So sweet and touching, Zoe! What a great reminder of the true meaning of the season.

    1. Thanks! That's what I hoped it would be. It was the answer I got when I prayed that night, to remember the Gift. :)

  4. Ah, Zoe, that was so poignant. Sending hugs to you, although I can obviously never replace Mr. D.

    I lost my own Mum in the run up to Christmas in 1999 and her funeral was 10 months exactly after my Dad had died the previous February. 1999 was a bad year for those and several other reasons, so Christmas that year in particular was rather subdued.

    Although we're not particularly religious, we do have a special crib scene we put up every year to remind us of the origins of the celebration. We bought it when we were working in Africa many years ago and all of the figures are individually carved, as in the scene pictured above. They're not as elaborate but they do show their African origin - one of the animal figures is an elephant!

    1. Thanks, Anji! I grew to fear December in general and December 7th, in particular. The story above is rather autobiographical, because it's not just my mom I lost...two years to the day later, I lost an uncle that I adored, then two years to the day after that, my former mother-in-law, to whom I was close, and in the four days leading up to her death, I lost my spiritual mom from church and her husband...Dec 3 and Dec 5...three deaths in the same year within days of each other. I held my breath in 2014 and this year, but it seems that pattern has been broken.

      I enjoy seeing the different scenes that can be found in each country. I actually find them very authentic, because the Child came for each of us, regardless of our country of origin, and it's only right that we see Him and His birth in a way that is familiar to us.

      Thanks so much for your comments, and best wishes in the drawing!

  5. I'm with you Zoe, in your sadness. It's not a merry Christmas for me either. My hubby was diagnosed with cancer last month, and he is having a surgery next week. We need our faith to keep us going. Hugs

    1. I'm so sorry to hear that! I'll keep you all in my prayers! (((hugs))) to you!

  6. So sweet and poignant. Thank you for sharing.

    1. You're welcome! Thanks for reading and commenting! Best wishes in the drawing!

  7. Zoe: I thank you so much for sharing on Darcyholic Diversions! I am sure you will reach the hearts of many who struggle at the holiday, missing love ones that have passed. I have been there as well. I have not completely decorated my house since the year my parents died 10 days apart. I am decorating some this year! Your article was one of the things that caused me to want to do it. Your touching story was very moving.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm happy that my story has made a difference. :)

  8. What a beautiful and touching story, Zoe. Thank you so much for sharing!

    diaryofaneccentric at hotmail dot com

  9. Thanks, Anna! I'm glad you liked it! Best wishes in the drawing! :)

  10. Your story is lovely and heartful. This is the time of year when we most miss family long gone and recent. I hope the coming year brings peace and joy to you and yours. Please keep writing as it brings joy to others.