It’s Christmas day. Our home is decorated inside and out with ornaments and holiday trinkets. Garland carefully draped along the shelves. Four red and white stockings are carefully hung up. The tree looks beautiful. It’s filled with glass bulbs and homemade ornaments, some from when I was a kid. The tree sparkles with twinkling lights topped off with a glittery silver star. In spite of all this, it doesn’t feel like Christmas to me.
It was only a few months ago when I was so looking forward to spending this time with all of us together. Filled with happiness and excitement that Erik was coming home, I started making plans for Christmas even though it was only July. Today, I find myself just trying to keep my composure from one moment to the next. Fighting back tears and pushing away memories of horror and disbelief from that Saturday morning in August when all of our plans forever changed.
Thoughts of Erik dominated my mind. I had to stop myself several times from buying gifts for him. I thought about previous Christmas mornings. I recalled the wrapping paper flying as the boys ripped through the gifts under the tree with wide smiles and their excitement filling the room. Now, memories are all I have. To say this hurts is an understatement.
This year, I changed our normal Christmas routine. Usually we put the tree up during Christmas week, but this year I decided to put it up before Thanksgiving. I wanted to force myself to get used to the idea that Erik would not be here with us on Christmas, maybe I could make myself numb enough to get through this holiday.
Instead of a big family dinner on Christmas Eve, we had a small family dinner a week early. Christmas morning was not spent getting up early to tear through a mountain of gifts followed by a big, home cooked breakfast. On this Christmas morning, we all slept in a little longer, waking long after the sun graced the sky. There was no mound of gifts or little children squealing in delight. It was just the three of us and one empty Christmas stocking.
I did my best to make it a nice Christmas for the rest of us. I kept myself busy and hoped that Christmas morning would not be as bad as I thought it might be. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. I fed off my fifteen year old’s excitement of getting a new bike for Christmas.
We went to my sister’s for brunch. I enjoyed spending time with my family. I truly did. When the kids opened their gifts, I was overjoyed when my nephew delighted in the scooter we had carefully picked out for him. He could not wait to ride it. He had a huge grin on his face as he cruised up and down the sidewalk. His gleeful expression warmed my heart. I thought of Erik with his first scooter, but I did not cry, instead I smiled.
And now the sun has set. The gifts have all been opened. Leftovers from dinner neatly packed away in containers in the refrigerator. Tomorrow we all go back to our usual daily routines. The first Christmas without Erik is over. I am relieved. I missed his presence but I did not fall apart today. I got out of bed and participated. It was not easy, but I did it.
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