Christmas without you... we survived! It wasn't the same and it came with a lot of tears and a lot of effort, but we did it. In my mind every day was filled with memories of our Christmas last year which made it hard to do anything. I tried but I felt frozen in time.
I have never been a huge fan of Christmas, the excitement, the joy, the spirit of the holiday has been replaced by society with what feels like competition, obligation and greed. I do find the joy still in treating the little ones, but when we are living a life of plenty, it just all seems so commercialized and I have a hard time fitting into that mode.
I knew it was going to be tough but I had no idea how tough, the feelings of well, no feelings were more than I wanted to deal with. Things like decorating the tree were twisted into thoughts of having to pull out the ornaments that I have lovingly picked out for you throughout the years. Finding those memories was just too much to bear.
The tree went up and the lights were put on but it sat empty for awhile. The boys ended up getting their ornament boxes and adding their special memories but I just couldn't be a part of it. I wanted to, but I was so afraid of how I would react that I decided it was best to just let it go for this year. Talking to my counselor, I explained to her the tremendous amount of guilt I was feeling for this act. I didn't want to ruin the holidays for everyone else just because I was stuck in last year and the years I could spend time with you. She suggested that I explain to our family how I was feeling and give them the option to decorate the tree without me. It was such a simple solution and yet I didn't think of it myself. By this time, two of the boys had already added their ornaments, but Bill was hesitating to add his, I am sure for fear of upsetting me. I told him what my counselor had suggested and to my surprise I felt a tremendous amount of weight lifted off my shoulders. He didn't get those special ornaments down from the attic until the day before Christmas which surprised me, I am sure he was struggling as well, but he doesn't talk much about it.
I was so glad when he did get some of our special ornaments, including the army hat ornament we bought for you last year and he placed it ever so carefully on the tree. I don't know that anyone else is aware, but I stopped and touched that ornament many times until I took the tree down today. I am so thankful that Bill brought it down and he had the strength that I did not.
We also lost Uncle George in 2015 so we were missing two important members of our family this year. Uncle George loved Christmas, he loved buying books for everyone and his love of reading was forced on everyone whether they like to read or not LOL. Bill found some old photos of him and George when they were little and gave those as gifts to his son. Missing you both hit at different times and each time it hit, I just allowed myself to feel it. I think that helped, but it made for an awful rollercoaster ride through the holidays, not just Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Years too.
I tried to find productive ways to honor you and Uncle George this year. I made some handmade ornaments with a photos of you and him, giving them to family members. I made two special ornaments for myself this year, the one in the photo above and another handmade ornament of your grave marker. Having them on the tree helped me to feel you were near. The way I feel today, I think I want to continue to get you a special ornament each year like I did when you were little and again when you returned home. I guess we will see.
The day before Christmas I went to Ft Indiantown Gap National Cemetery alone. The ground was soggy and wet, but I still sat on the ground in front of your marker and I just talked to you. I really like doing that. Sometimes I am sorry that we chose your final resting place to be so far away, but then again, I might go to your grave every day if it was in town. Planning and making a special trip sort of makes it feel like I am really going to see you. Then I get there and well you know, it is such a somber place and yet so peaceful.
So today, as I put the tree and all the Christmas decorations away and return our living space to its normal state, I am feeling thankful. Thankful that as a family, we were able to find a way to make it through without you and Uncle George and we were able to find moments of happiness within our sadness.
You are gone out of our physical life Shane and George, but you will NEVER be out of our hearts and minds.
We miss you so much.