There’s a lot to celebrate this time of year, but for some of us, the holiday season brings with it reminders of what’s been lost wrapped in memories of Christmases past.

What if all you want is to hold someone’s hand, look in their eyes again, and say, “I love you. Please stay”?

What if that’s a wish you will never be granted?

Three of us here at the Coastal Journal are longing to bury our faces in the coarse fur of our dogs who died in 2017.

Editorial assistant Irene Mower lost her dog Mac in the first part of the year. She was at least 11 years old, and had struggles for a long time.

Mac was the unofficial mascot of the Coastal Journal, and even on days Irene didn’t have to come to work, the shiz tsu-poodle mix would head to the car and wait to be driven to the downtown office.

We didn’t worry about Irene, who’s in her 70s and lives alone, because she had Mac to keep her straight. After Mac passed away, we fussed for a bit – much to Irene’s annoyance – until she adopted a cat.

(The cats … they just kept coming into Irene’s life. She’s since been adopted by TWO strays, who hang out at her house. They were attracted to the pigeons she feeds. I told her I was sure Mac sent these creatures to keep her company).

It is, of course, not the same.

Molly Rams, beloved Boston terrier of Bath ad rep Annie Merry, died in November. She was 12 years old. Annie says she loved that dog as much as her kids (occasionally more).

“When they go, a piece of you go with them. I’ve lost my parents and a sister, but I’ve never lost a pet. It must be like losing a child,” Annie said.

In June, one of my family dogs died.

Her name was Molly “Bird Dog,” otherwise known as Molly B., Bird Dog, B-Dog, and Birdie. It didn’t really matter what we called her. She knew her name was love.

She was always Birdie to me, and we adored each other from the moment my husband introduced us. I gave her occasional food scraps from my kitchen creations. She gave me unabashed, open-hearted, utterly devoted, follow-you-to-the-end-of-the earth love like only a dog can give. It wasn’t a fair exchange. But that’s a dog for you.

Birdie hadn’t walked on her own in three days when we finally took her to the vet. It was expensive, and worth it. He prescribed a bunch of medicine, but she died that night on our way to the animal emergency clinic in Auburn.

There are moments that live forever in your heart, and watching my husband lift Birdie into his arms and run into the clinic, tears falling on her fur in the whispers of his sorrow is one inscribed in mine.

I take it out now and again, along with a few others. I tug the ribbon of remembering and unwrap those moments one by one.

It’s not the same as watching Birdie gallop across the yard one more time after hopping up and down – she was an English Springer Spaniel after all – at the door to be let out.

But this grief … it is a gift. You want to know what love is? Lose a dog.

Irene, Annie and I have each other to share with and receive comfort, but if you’ve lost someone you love this year – with or without fur – and you’d like to be connected to others in the same emotional shape as you, consider attending a Blue Christmas service.

I know about two in the Midcoast, but check with local churches as many offer Blue Christmas as part of their regular holiday services.

Mid Coast Senior Health will offer a Blue Christmas service from 3 to 4 p.m. Dec. 19, at 58 Baribeau Dr. And from 6:30 to 7:30 Dec. 21, Bath United Methodist Church, 340 Oak Grove Ave., along with other area congregations, will host one, too.