It had been five months since Lydia passed away and that dreaded first Christmas had suddenly crept upon me-a festive holiday when it seemed there was nothing to celebrate, and it was here whether I liked it or not. Had I forgotten about the real meaning of Christmas? Absolutely. Completely focused on myself and my pain, I hated to see this holiday come.
With Santa filling every store shelf, every movie, and every enticing commercial of family and joy, the broadcasting the coming of Christmas and all of its festivities was horrifying. But what does a mother do? She somehow endures the pain, with another mask to wear, another façade to play out, while attempting to put a smile on her only child’s face. The excitement, fun, and anticipation waned as the first holiday came around without my girl. Taking my son to see Santa proved to be a traumatic experience that I never wanted to do again. While parents were proudly snapping pictures of their children grinning with excitement sitting on Santa’s lap, all I could see was the last photo of my kids together on Santa’s lap, one year ago. Once again, flashbacks of regret consumed me. The mask and the act became too difficult to continue.
Seeing only my son with Santa, his other knee vacant, crumbled me and brought me to my knees in tears. How I hated life, hated myself.
The Santa photos used to be my traditional Christmas card, and now I wouldn’t send another one out for years. Actually, I haven’t sent once since.
I became bitter towards those family photo cards, you know, the ones with all the smiles, milestones and happy times. For the next two years when we received them in the mail, one by one they all went straight to the garbage, sight unseen. Absorbed by jealousy, I wanted to rip them to shreds, and never wanted to see those joyful faces again. Sorry friends. It became too painful, like a slap in the face, bringing to the forefront that pain I had worked so hard to hide. And I didn’t feel bad about it one bit.
Being the first Christmas without our baby girl, I hadn’t the drive or love in my heart to get a tree and decorate it. Just the thought of the holidays without Lydia would make me fall apart and retreat to a solitary hiding place, just me and my tears. There was no tree, no Christmas cookies baking or decorations or laughter in the kitchen. This year was different. I was hollow. Yet, because of my son Hunter, I knew I had to try to do something. We opted for a live tree that we could plant after the holiday season. We bought a new box of lights to put on the tree, as I wanted nothing to do with those totes full of memories, so in their box they stayed and our tree without decorations. I counted the days and “faked it ’til I made it.” The holiday couldn’t be over soon enough.
It had been five months since Lydia died. How could that possibly be? Christmas was just hours away when my heart was warmed by an amazing gift. In the car, where much time was spent, was a place where Lydia would compose her masterpieces – beautiful, one-of-a-kind, spectacular illustrations of creativity. She had an art set, complete with a portable desk, papers and markers that she loved. One rainy, fall day, I happened to put my hand in the back pocket of the driver’s seat, the one in front of where she used to sit. As I pulled out multiple hair accessories, ponytail holders, and nail polish bottles, I was caught off guard and choked up with tears at what I saw.
Between my fingers came a neat white envelope and on the outside, carefully written it said, “To Hunter, From Lydia.” Without hesitation, I gingerly opened up the top and peeked inside. My hands trembling with anticipation as I pulled out this precious gift at just the right moment.
Christmas would arrive in a number of hours and I had found the perfect present for our son. Something to bring warmth to his tattered and torn heart, something that would provide him with the hope and love he desperately needed from his big sister. It was a drawing of a Christmas tree, complete with ornaments and a star!
Drops of love poured down my cheeks, what a gift! The pain my heart felt was indescribable, yet this little blessing provided a glimmer of hope and I couldn’t help but smile amidst the tears.
Friends, I know that deep pain of the first Christmas without your child. It’s the most heart-wrenching feeling ever. The blanket of hopelessness and fear is smothering, allowing no light to seep through. I wore those exact shoes once. Take care of you. Do what feels right. Cry, laugh, hide, embrace whatever feelings come. Hang on. One day at a time. Most importantly, remember the real meaning of the season. Jesus. Focus on Him. Equip yourselves with the truth. You are loved and you can do this.
Romans 8:18 “The pain that you’ve been feeling, can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”
Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
~On the journey with you,