It’s that time of year again. It’s funny that no matter how much time passes I still go into the season forgetting that she’s not here. I start thinking of my Christmas list and I have to mentally note to not write her name down. I feel like each year we play a game of hiding our pain so that our kids can enjoy every bit of the season they can. They are so excited when we get all the decorations out, as every child should be. But as each box is opened, they squeal with excitement and Stuart and I endure pain every minute. Her handmade ornaments, her school crafts, her stocking on the fireplace all the way up to the angel on the tree that she and I went to Peppermint Forest to pick out together. Her fingerprints are all over everything. But, Stuart and I smile at the kids and decide together where we should place every single thing – knowing that we can’t make eye contact with each other for too long or we crack.
We try so hard each year to do new things for the season. I spend hours investigating places we can go that don’t have her shadow following us around. It’s harder than you think really. I’m always looking for that holiday adventure that is close by that makes us look like the best parents ever to Grant and Sophia, when in fact we are there because we are running from her. We have found lots of great new things that we do together and have even managed to keep some of her traditions in place to remember her by. Every Christmas Eve we still drive to Christmas town in McAdenville, NC to drive around and see the Christmas lights. We let the kids stand out of the sunroof and shout “Merry Christmas” to everyone walking around, just as she and Grant did for years. We wrap up the night at Red Lobster, which was her favorite place. Seems like an odd place to eat your Christmas Eve dinner, but the kids know that we are there because of her and they walk hand in hand with us with pride.
Christmas morning is always the hardest as we watch them come down the stairs. I can still picture Grant flying past her on the stairs as she took each step one by one with care – never learning how to walk down stairs correctly. The morning we gave her Jake was our best memory ever. We fought it for years, but after the last brain surgery – we could no longer say no. This big box sealed up with red wrapping paper that had kittens with Santa Clause hats on them. Her voice and laughter as Jake jumped out of the box is a sound I can hear if I close my eyes in a quiet room. She chased him around that morning with toys and treats – one of the best days of her life. Now Jake sits under the tree and watches Grant and Sophia tear into gifts, unaware that he was the best gift of her life.
We are getting better at this Christmas morning dance. We keep it light and cheerful with very little eye contact or embraces. We keep the music pumping in the background because in our house, silence is not golden, especially in December. Our kids don’t notice the missing piece anymore, which means we are probably succeeding as parents. Her stocking hangs with just an angel doll inside of it, watching over us, as she is most likely doing. Once the morning slows down, we pile in the car as a family and bring roses out to her site. The worst gift you can get a little girl on Christmas, because she should be opening everything her heart desires. But the roses comfort me because I can’t even wrap my head around what she would be into or what Santa would of brought for her this year. I no longer know her in that way – so roses are all I can do. Once her roses are laid at her resting spot and we take a moment to wish her Merry Christmas, I instantly feel the weight lifted off of me. We did it. We got through another Christmas without her and without it tearing us to pieces. Now there are only 364 days until I have to fight through this day again. Sometimes you just don’t get what you want on Christmas.
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