Once upon a time, the holidays were my favorite time of the year. I love everything about them. Being together with family, the warmth of sharing stories, laughter and memories, the look of amazement of a child's face when they see Santa, the twinkling lights everywhere you go, the smell of cinnamon scented pine cones, finding the perfect gift and then watching, with excitement as it gets opened. I love it all.
Kaitlyn's first Christmas, she was a little over a month old. There are so many pictures of her opening her presents, asleep, me piling open gifts on top of her. Her second Christmas was awesome. She woke up and ran down the stairs, super excited by all of her gifts and just the magic of the holidays. Her third Christmas, she was sick with the rotovirus, lethargic and ended up spending the following day in the hospital for dehydration. Kaitlyn's third Christmas was nothing like I thought it would be.
When we prepared for Kaitlyn's third Christmas, I was so excited. It was going to be the first year she not only "got" it enough to ask for anything, but she was going to share it with her baby brother.
When Matthew died, we already had Christmas presents hiding in the closet (Kaitlyn actually found her gift from Santa, a giant Dora), stockings for all of us and plans on how to keep him safe and isolated from all the germs cold and flu season brings.
While I do think that Christmas was still magical for Kaitlyn, it was really, really hard. And really, in a lot of ways, I still find them hard. It's so conflicting, loving and enjoying so much of the holiday and so badly wanting to share it with your children and knowing that one will never be in your arms again. I will never see one of their reactions Christmas morning. I will never see his little handwriting making a Christmas list, or embracing Santa. Or having a complete melt-down at the site of him. I'll never hear that little voice ask for hot coco.
I do think, Samantha and Charlotte both have brought back a lot of joy into the house. There are so, so many laughs and so, so much happiness. They gave Kaitlyn a living sibling, though there are times she is super annoyed by little sisters, she is so proud and in love with them. But, there are unanswered wishes, that I think will always be there.
I find myself getting really emotional during the holidays. Probably more so than any other time of year. I think it's why Samantha was given to us in November and Charlotte in December. It certainly keeps our minds busy and our hands occupied.
Grieving the loss of your child isn't something you just get over, conquer and move away from. It's something that becomes a part of you, a part of your daily life, a part of who you are. Not a day goes by that I don't think of Matthew, or long to hold him, kiss him or see him. It is something that just becomes you. You work to get through the hard days and find blessings in the good ones.
I believe that the most important thing in life is family. Family shapes you, it supports you, it builds you and it's forever. I am so incredibly blessed to have such an amazing family. One that remains strong through thick and thin. And, for those that have been toxic in the past, I have an amazing husband that helps protect us and our family.
I know that time shapes things and people. Both change and grow. People mature and realize the true importance of life, and I am always open to second, third, fourth chances... Especially during the holiday season.
I think part of the changes in a person, after losing someone close, is the realization of just how short life is. It is so much more than a cliche. It is life changing to realize that in just one breath, everything can change. It can be overwhelming at times to realize just how true that is. It can make the entire world stop spinning sometimes.
This holiday season, hug easily and judge less. We are so quick to make assumptions about a person's behavior or demeanor, but often, we do not know if someone is hurting or just really needs a kind word or a friendly touch. Do something kind in memory of someone you love. One kind act will not change the world, but it can change the world for one person.
Tomorrow is never promised. Live each day to the fullest, find joy everywhere you can and embrace life. Forgive easily, celebrate often and share your love with the world.