Patty Chang Anker

Some Nerve

Missing Those We Love at the Holidays

Greeting the holiday season with courage and joy

Posted Dec 23, 2014


Missing Pieces

On a recent rainy weekend G, R and I put together a 500-piece puzzle. It was a rainforest scene, lots of colorful feathers and fur, and different shades of green. Partway through piecing together a monkey, I started to worry. It was a used puzzle that one of the girls had bought at a school fair with her allowance. What if I never found this monkey’s head? What if, after all the work of putting it together, it wasn’t complete?

“If there are missing pieces it’s okay,” I said, trying to brace the girls for disappointment. “It’s about the challenge, not the picture at the end.”

It seems a recurring theme these days, after spending so much of our lives trying to put things together – getting married, having kids, building careers – in pursuit of a complete picture of how things should be, that when we come around to holidays or milestones we pause and see what we’ve built and what we haven’t, what we’ve lost and can never get back.

Friends have lost parents, spouses and even children this past year. Others who want to find the right partner or have children wonder if they ever will. And our own children are thinking of birthparents they’ll never know.

Many years ago, I read the thoughts of a 13-year-old adoptee on an online support board (paraphrased from memory): It’s like my life is a jigsaw puzzle and my birthparents are missing pieces I can’t ever have, and that makes me sad. But no one gets to have all the pieces. Everyone’s puzzle is missing something. So I’m trying to focus on the pieces I have and keep building.

We worked diligently until the afternoon and 499 pieces found their place.

“Not bad, for a used puzzle,” my own 13-year-old G said, surveying the lush rainforest covering our dining table, with a hole in the middle. “It’s still beautiful.”

None of us is shiny new from the factory any more. All our puzzles are worn. Our challenge is to find the beauty anyway.

Wishing everyone, especially those who are missing pieces this holiday season, many blessings, comfort, courage and joy.