The other morning I found myself snuggled under a blanket in the recliner with Ian, drinking a warm cup of coffee, and laughing as we watched Home Alone (him, for the first time). In that moment, as I smiled and laughed alongside my son, I couldn’t help but pause and think…”holy shit, I’m actually enjoying a morning in the month of December…”
Ask anyone who has lost a loved one how they feel about the impending holidays…I can almost guarantee the answer will be laced with quite a bit of hesitation and uncertainty. How can you get excited for a tradition that no longer involves a fundamental part of your existence?
Last year Christmas came exactly three months after Nate died. I won’t lie…I have no clue what the fuck was going on this time last year except for a whole lot of crying, a whole lot of not sleeping, and a whole lot of WTF’ing…and then? A whole lot of numbness and just existing. It’s like a hazy cloud completely blocks my recollection of last year.
December was always my favorite month…and no, not just because it’s my birthday month…But because I have always found such joy in the holidays. I loved all of it…The decorations, the music, the craziness of preparing for the big day along with the warmth and comfort of tradition …The exchanging of gifts and the memorable moments with family and friends…Holiday festivities always warmed my heart more than I could possibly put into words…
And then my husband died.
Yep, that sucked. It sucked so much that it sucked the magic straight out of the season for me…It’s quite safe to say that the magic of Christmas isn’t quite as profound as it once was before.
As I said earlier, last year is such a blur. Numbness allowed me to get through the holidays, my birthday and the new year on robot mode, and I did so not feeling much at all. So it’s no wonder why this year, as reality settled in, I was preparing myself mentally and emotionally for the dreaded season well into the middle of summer. I’ve had 15 months of feeling all of it, and therefore unfortunately, I’m no longer on robot mode for the holidays… I’m on what I like to call, widow mode since December 1st hit…
A.k.a: Time to get my shit together for my son and make this year the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye (National Lampoon fans, where you at?)
It’s hard guys. When you’ve lived through the darkest day of your life, it’s hard to be holly fucking jolly even if the calendar tells you that it’s time to be holly fucking jolly. And this is coming from somebody whose middle name was quite literally holly fucking jolly for each and every day of the 31 days that makes up the month of December. If only you could ask Nate…he’d tell you I drove him nuts around Christmas.
Yes. I was that person. And he loved me even though I began playing Christmas music in the middle of November. Talk about unconditional love, right?
This year is so different than any other year though. Last year, reality hadn’t hit yet. This year, I truly feel every bit like a single, widowed mother trying to give her son the best day EVER, while simultaneously attempting to fake it until I make it to…
But as I sat in that recliner earlier this week with my son, I realized one important thing…while the season may be painful, maybe it’s still possible to celebrate the moments. In that simple moment sitting with Ian, watching one of my all time favorite Christmas movies, next to our beautifully lit up tree, I was reminded of happier times. As I listened to Ian giggle, I was reminded of the simplicity of the meaning behind the holidays…appreciating what you have. And in that moment, I was blessed with the luxury of relaxing next to my boy as we enjoyed a movie in our jammies.
Yes, I have lost a lot. No…we have lost a lot. Nate’s parents, our families, our friends…we all lost so much in losing Nate…Last year I was so focused on my pain and sadness of what I’d lost, that I lost focus on what I still had. First and foremost, a little boy who still wants to snuggle on my lap and watch Christmas movies despite the emotional war that wages on in my mind and heart…a little boy who loves me unconditionally and claims I’m a good mommy despite all of the flaws I see in myself…flaws that haunt me day to day. I have parents who have inherited the title of “coparents” with such grace that I could never relay the level of gratitude I feel. I have in laws who continue to support us and love us whole heartedly, and friends who continue to stand by our side despite the chaos that inhabits my day to day life…
Most importantly? I’ve had love.
I’ve had love.
I believe in it, I’ve relished in the beauty of it. And despite the heartache that haunts me, I’ve been strengthened by it. In my darkest moments, I have been strengthened by a love that helped me grow from a naive teenager into a woman and then eventually, a mother. I’ve had a love so strong and so beautiful that it makes me hopeful that I may be lucky enough to feel something again someday…terrified, but hopeful all the same…Because at the end of the day, no matter how broken I may feel at certain times, I know I wake up each day stronger for having survived those broken moments. For having had that love.
I find myself often referring to that quote about life being made of moments…whether small or big. This past year has shown me over and over again how fucking true that quote is. Life offers you moments that will try to break you…moments that bring you to your knees or shake you to the core. Moments that have the ability to define who you are or set you on the course for who you want to be. Moments that have you question your existence in a fit of rage and then have you soaring on cloud nine, full of happiness. Moments that bring a smile to your face against all odds. Moments that have you fighting to reach the surface for air despite drowning further to a depth of sorrow that may force you to question everything you thought you knew about life.
I don’t know if December will ever be my favorite month again. I don’t know if the holidays will ever come with ease…They may not ever carry the same luster they once held, but after that simple morning with Ian, I am at least hopeful that over the next week I am able to continue to celebrate the moments. I am going to try to relish those moments that bring a smile to my face, and when needed, I’m going to allow myself to cry for the man who should be here. But more importantly, I’m going to try to celebrate the legacy he left behind and the fact that as long as I can remember the love he gave me? As long as I can find and appreciate the moments? I will always have something to be grateful for.