Somehow it came. In less than an hour it will be here. I'm not sure how that happened because I felt I was doing my best to make it feel unwelcome. Still, my efforts have gone unnoticed. My pain didn't scare away the snow. My shattered heart didn't deter the world from hanging mistletoe and decorating trees. Everyone around me still bought gifts for their loved ones. They still made "to do" lists and ran around in the same stressed out circles trying to complete everything before the big day. Why? I don't know. How? I can't imagine. But it's true. Christmas is here.
Although I guess this is technically our second Christmas without you, it feels like the first. I don't know if that's because of the horribly close proximity of your death to that date last year, or if every year will feel like the first. Maybe it's just that last year was my first Christmas without breath. This one is my first without YOU. I began to feel the hole widening when I realized that time was running out for buying gifts for your brother and sisters. I remember thinking to myself, Ok, as much as you hate every aspect of this holiday, at some point you're going to wish that your children had something to open on Christmas. And not because they NEED any of the things you're buying, but just because you don't want more things to be ripped from them. So, I did it. I bought things. I found items on shelves and put them in carts and brought them home to be wrapped. I did all of those things. That seemed like enough. That should have been enough. But of course it wasn't. I couldn't buy those gifts without getting yours too. I found the greatest gifts for you. You'd love them. And actually there were times when I was buying them that something felt lighter. Something was holding me up and allowing me to enjoy that process. Part of that was the love of a friend, and part of it was you. I know you chose your gifts. But the thing is, I also had to wrap them. The paper is covered in my tears because of course I knew that the little boy who would have loved them so much wouldn't be there to open them. I know you'll never see them. I know you won't race to the living room to beat your siblings to the tree. I know you won't cuddle with me on the couch while we play with your new toys. The funny thing is, I'm very aware of all of these things and yet, I also know that the first thing I'll do when I come up those stairs is look for you.
Tonight your siblings set out their stockings. They jumped up and down with excitement and watched Christmas movies together. I sat here and watched them. All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and never resurface, but I didn't. I'm sure my smile wasn't as broad as they'd like it. I know they recognized my pain. But what they couldn't possibly see was the war raging inside me. How could I be here watching this all unfold? I don't even like when all five of us are in a room together because it makes that missing piece of our puzzle feel so much bigger. Your piece completed us and without it, none of us seem to fit. So how could I possibly be part of something that is supposed to be full of such joy and happiness when my pieces are missing? But, still I sat there. I wanted to scream and punch something. When your sister handed me the picture she'd drawn of our family, I wanted to throw it back at her. She'd forgotten to draw you. When your Dad took your siblings to church and I sat home alone, I wanted to hate him. Why were they trying to make Christmas look the same when clearly that wasn't ever going to happen again? Why was I the only one who could see that? Why was I alone in my efforts of stopping the world from spinning?
All of these things went racing through my head, and yet, I never would have thrown that picture back at your sister. As crushed as I felt in that moment, some part of me knows her pain runs deep. And when Daddy suggested that she finish the picture by adding you, she said, in all of her adorable innocence, "Well, I didn't have time to draw the ornaments on the tree. And Eastie was supposed to be pulling the ornaments off. I'll draw him doing that. That's why I hung that yellow ornament so low on our tree this year. Remember how he always pulled that one off?" And sure enough, the bottom of the tree held a gold ornament with Santa on it. It's so low, it nearly touches the ground. I hadn't noticed it before, but it had been like that the whole time. This time I was the one who'd forgotten. She was right. That was the exact ornament you pulled off over and over again. Not only had she remembered, but she'd hung it low enough so that you could reach it.
I realized that as ugly as this life has become, we're still doing it together. Our methods of grieving are so very different, and yet there is no denying the invisible thread that holds us together. All six of us. Daddy and I will forget things that your siblings will carry forever. They'll need us to remind them to include their little brother at times, just like any other family. We each have our special memories with you that we keep tucked away for those private moments when we talk out loud to the sky. And tonight I'm asking for your strength and love to be with us tomorrow. Help us to make it through, one breath at a time. Look for us, Baby. We're always here. And I assure you that I'll never stop looking for you. Even if it has to be tomorrow, under that Christmas tree.