Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Dealing with derailed plans & loss at Christmas December 26, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 2:26 PM
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This photo, taken along Minnesota Highway 30 in southwestern Minnesota in January 2010, illustrates how the wind blows snow across the land. Conditions were worse, much worse, in the recent blizzard. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo January 2010)

SATURDAY MORNING I OPENED the blinds to a winter landscape awash in brilliant sunlight. That’s not particularly unusual for December in Minnesota. But what proved different were the two pillars of light flanking the sun with a rainbow arcing between. Sun dogs glared stronger than the center sun and I couldn’t stop looking at the scene.

I’m no scientist or weather person, but the sun dogs and rainbow have something to do with the frigid temps and ice crystals in the atmosphere. They lasted for hours, a true gift on a morning when I welcomed brightness in my day.

Landing at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)


I needed that beautiful light in the midst of Christmas plans that didn’t quite unfold as hoped. I expect many of you experienced the same as this massive winter storm moved from state to state. My son, whom I haven’t seen in a year, had to rebook his canceled flight from Indianapolis. His plane lands early this evening at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and he arrives here Tuesday morning with his oldest sister and her family. I cannot wait to enfold him in a tight, lingering hug.

Yesterday Randy and I drove the 35 minutes to our eldest daughter’s house for a holiday meal and time together with the four of them, including our two precious grandchildren. We played space BINGO and watched a little artist paint and gave lots of hugs and then celebrated Christmas with a zoom call after our holiday meal. I am thankful for such technology bringing my family together from Minnesota to Wisconsin to Indiana.

For many families, Christmas together never happened, and not just because of canceled flights. All of southwestern (my home area on the prairie) and south central Minnesota were basically shut down by the multi-day blizzard. More than 2,000 miles of roadway were closed, including interstates. Snow gates were dropped into place, blocking access. The Minnesota National Guard was called up to rescue stranded motorists, who shouldn’t have been out in a storm that packed up to 40 mph winds whipping snow into concrete-hard drifts. I understand a blizzard, having grown up on the prairie. Not everyone does.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots edited file photo used for illustration only)


I understand the strong yearning to be with family. Being separated from loved ones during the holidays is simply emotionally challenging. I am sort of used to it given only one of my three adult children remains in Minnesota. But the missing never goes away.

This year brought an added dimension of missing. Missing Mom, my first Christmas without her. I thought I was doing fine until the final song at our Christmas Day morning worship service. Only moments earlier, a woman pushed her elderly father to the front of the church to receive Holy Communion. In that moment, my mind flashed to my wheelchair-bound mom. Within minutes, I was crying, trying not to sob. I removed my glasses, wiped the gush of tears with the backs of my hands. I felt Randy’s hand on my back, a loving and comforting gesture.

Later that evening, my friend Gretchen texted asking for prayers. Her mom died unexpectedly earlier in the day. After Christmas Day morning worship. After lunch and gift-opening at her sister’s house in Washington. Now Gretchen and her family are scrambling to book flights from southwestern Minnesota. This broke my heart. To lose one’s mama is hard enough. But to lose her on Christmas Day, even harder. My friend Beth Ann experienced the same two years ago. Christmas will now forever be connected to loss. Yet, Gretchen and Beth Ann are both strong women of faith. Like me, they know we will see our moms again. Together. Just not now.

TELL ME: Are you grieving this holiday season? Did your Christmas plans change due to weather? What’s the weather been like in your area? I’d like to hear your stories on any/all of these topics.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


19 Responses to “Dealing with derailed plans & loss at Christmas”

  1. beth Says:

    Yes,so hard when you’re missing someone during these special holidays and every day. I feel like many peoples plans had to change or be cancelled due to the weather and that’s hard too, as we all look forward to gathering when we can. I feel fortunate yay most of our family was able to work our a way for Christmas to happen,, though not in the way we planned or even all at once, but I did feel grateful for what we were able to do and tried not to feel sad about what couldn’t happen, better everyone was safe and warm. The deep loss of your mother this year as well as plan changes had to be very challenging and hard for your heart to cope with, and I’m sorry for that. I did hear your wisdom and gratitude through it all though, and it sounds like you have wonderful people supporting you, and that means everything.

  2. Gunny Says:

    Yup, loss of life long friends, a wife with a terminal disease, (if you can believe this) a frozen ruptured water pipe in the heart of Texas. Weather was almost 70 degrees here and we still have ice on the water fountain surround.

  3. That storm really packed a punch. I was thankful to watch from this side of the ocean. For many of us Christmas is a time of loss. I personally don’t celebrate anything, anymore after loosing so much one horrible Christmas. I don’t criticize or judge people who find hope in the true meaning of the season but if that joy, kindness, faithful service was extended by all throughout the year the World would be a more peaceful place. Many still live such rooted principles and exhibit kindness to others and for that I am truly thankful.
    Audrey- thought you should know that on Christmas Eve one brave employee of the Faribault Woolen Mill showed up. Karen, took my order with such Minnesota nice kindness I almost cried, missing my home state and my kids.

    • Paula, I can only imagine how difficult it is to be apart from your kids and away from Minnesota. I’m sorry.

      Thank you for sharing about kindness. I agree. We need to “live” kindness year round. I appreciate that you wrote about the Faribault Mill employee who took your Christmas Eve order with such Minnesota nice kindness. That makes me happy.

      • I didn’t realize that it is only one of two woolen mills that still exist in the US. My dad bought and sold wool to the mill in the 1970’s from all of Northern Minnesota and into the Dakota’s. So in a way I have a connection to that mill as well. Happy to support a MN woolen mill that makes quality!

      • I love reading about your connection to the Faribault Mill. The name was recently changed from Faribault Woolen Mill to Faribault Mill after the company bought an eastern US cotton mill. Thanks for supporting this long-standing, growing business in southern Minnesota.

  4. Loss is tough, especially during the Holidays. We are missing a few that have passed many years ago along with a few recent losses this month too. We did not have anyone with weather related issues, but the cold/flu have struck a few households that had to put off plans to gather for a bit. We had the coldest Christmas here in Florida since the early 1980’s in being in the low-to-mid 30’s (last year we were out kayaking in close to 80 degree weather). We did go to the beach though – Christmas tradition since moving here (we did not linger long on the beach). The dolphins were out playing though. Take Care, Stay Warm ((((((Love&Hugs))))))

    • You have experienced so much loss and that is hard. I’m sorry also for weather and illness affecting your Christmas plans. But I know you will appreciate whenever you can gather. Wishing you warmth and love with a BIG Minnesota hug!

  5. shirleyhansen Says:

    A beautiful blog! I lost my mom the day before New Years 20 years ago and my dad 15 years before that. Every Christmas I can close my eyes and visualize some of those wonderful, heartwarming Christmases with them. I spent Christmas Eve and day alone recovering from walking pneumonia. Family stopped by yesterday with a bag of groceries. Close families are the best!

    Wishing you more adventures, happiness and good health in the new year! I always look forward to your writings! Shirley ( a friend of Valerie Bollinger)

    • Shirley, first I’m thankful for the loving family you have nearby to be there for you. I hope you continue to feel better. Thank you for the reminder that we need to hold close the memories of loved ones, like your parents, who are no longer with us. Lastly, thanks for sharing that you are a friend of Valerie. She’s is such a dear, kind, compassionate and loving friend.

  6. I’m so sorry, Audrey. I hope your son arrives safe and sound. Blessings, Dear Friend. ❤

  7. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    Only 2 months gone, it was fresh…the loss of my dad! I, like you thought I’d be ok until we were on the hi-way headed to mom’s. All the feels hit me at once and I cried, because I really miss my dad. I’m sorry for the loss of your mom Audrey, I know you miss her so much. Praying for comfort as you continue to grieve her loss.

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