It has been such a long time since I’ve written. I guess that means I’ve been sleeping through the night with no “waking inspirations”. I should be well rested!
Two weeks ago, I was on a panel of other bereaved people presenting our stories and experiences of grief at a rather large, wonderfully welcoming church in Bethlehem. It was a discussion about grieving during the holiday season and all of the varied emotions, experiences and issues that can arise during this “most wonderful time of the year”. With Thanksgiving over and the holidays quickly approaching, I thought I might write a blog about this difficult topic. I am reminded of the duality of the holidays-the coming together of families and noticeable separation of loved ones who have died, the feelings of happiness and “good cheer” and the feelings of longing and loneliness. As well as the expressions of love and the overwhelming expression of sadness. The holidays can mean so many different things to so many. I think back on our first Thanksgiving without Luke. Kraig was still in rehab at Good Shepherd and we tried so hard to make it “ok” for him and for ourselves, but the longing and sadness were so apparent you could have cut them with our hospital-issued plastic knives. It was the worst holiday on record for our family. Kraig came home a few weeks later on Christmas Eve. We tried our best for the girls sake to create some kind of normalcy -to keep our old traditions in tact, but the hole left by Luke’s absence was just too great. Nothing we did felt even close to right. We were like toy soldiers you see during the Christmas season, painted on smiles with robot-like movements just going through the motions. We had no idea how to act or how to go about getting through this holiday stuff. It was severely painful in so many ways. We did reminisce a little, being led along by the ghost of Christmas Past, as we viewed our “old life” floating above a warm, inviting home all decorated for the season and smelling of newly baked cookies and pine. Our memories were like receiving the best-ever Christmas present, a perfect gift in our minds of how things were supposed to be. We talked about a Christmas morning when Luke was about 18 months old. He had just woken up and the girls rushed in to his room to get him and couldn’t wait to show him all the gifts under the tree for him. He was practically still asleep, but when Sammi placed him on his new ride-on John Deere tractor with the vibrating seat and it started to shake him around, the face he gave us was priceless! We laughed and smiled thinking back to that sweet time. We then remembered him on his last Christmas with us. On Christmas Eve each year, we would each take a turn reading our favorite Christmas stories. Luke usually deferred the reading part to us girls, but that year he chose a book and read the entire story. We all cheered and we were so happy he did it. He, of course, didn’t show much emotion, but we knew inside he was proud of himself. I rely on these memories when this season of love and family shows up at the end of the year and always gives us a little glimpse of our family without Luke. Nothing we can do or buy or experience will ever give us the joy that having Luke in our lives would bring us. One last memory before I’m done- two years ago our “new” family went away on a cruise for Christmas. It was two days before Christmas and we had stayed in our cabin and watched movies -some of them Luke’s favorites. After the movies were over, we all decided to go out on the balcony to get some air. It was a clear, perfect night-all we could see were stars. They seemed to be surrounding us -not just in the sky above, but all around us like a warm, comfy blanket. We each stood in our own little spot. All at once, my emotions overtook me and I began to cry, the tears running down my face like they hadn’t in a long time. I’m not sure what anyone else was thinking or experiencing, but I couldn’t help but cry for the sadness of losing my only son, for the longing of needing him in my life and most importantly for the love I couldn’t physically give to him or receive. But, I kept searching in those stars on that beautiful, clear night two days before Christmas for just an inkling or confirmation that my sweet boy was somehow with me -with all of us. As I stood there a few moments more, out of the blue I heard a voice in my head, “I’m here Mom, I’m here with you always”. Those few words gave me peace like no other and I am grateful. I believe it was my Christmas gift from Luke. Unfortunately for all of us grieving, the holiday season is a difficult time, but if you will keep your heart and mind open, there will be gifts from your loved ones. The reward of TRULY knowing they are with you always is a gift rivaled by none.