For the girls and I, our Christmas and New Year celebration begins when Kylee comes home for semester break from her university. Kylee has completed the first semester of her junior year in college and continues to work hard to meet her goals. The first weekend that Kylee was home then we did our annual cookie bake. We spent hours in the kitchen for that weekend and enjoyed lots of laughter while we baked. The girls love to take videos of patting their hands together with flour and watching it fly into the air. I am amused at how many “takes” we need in order to get the perfect video. I am thankful that they find joy in our traditions and in one another. For our deliveries, we packed the vehicle full of cookie trays to share with some of our wonderful family and friends that live close to us. We find much joy in this delivery time as we hope to give a little blessing and joy to our family and friends.
After our cookie bake weekend, my parents arrived from North Dakota that next day. My parents have driven to stay with us each Christmas season since my husband died. My husband was killed in a work related accident in August 2011 and since that time my parents have come to try to help us through the holiday season. They have each time brought their love, joy, and the gift of their presence. After my son was instantly killed in a car accident at the age of 18 in June 2013, I believe that they faced many challenges trying to bring joy to the holiday season for us. I was determined in the midst of my heartache and tremendous pain to continue on in our traditions for my two daughters. However, while I continued in those traditions after my son died, I can say that the battle in my heart and mind was tremendous.
I desperately wanted to be a good mom to my two daughters and to give them my very best every day. I always remind myself that Kylee and MiKayla deserve my very best just as much as my sweet PK did. I still completely desire to provide them with wonderful Christmas and special day memories. The way I was feeling after PK died was the furthest thing from celebrating. I remember my first birthday after my son died. My boss decided that I needed to celebrate my birthday and had everyone gather in the conference room for cake and for a short party. I begged her not to. The last thing I wanted to do was to go and try to celebrate my birthday. I cared about each person in the room and did not want to offend them; however, I remember feeling like crying and saying, “Do you not realize that I had to bury my only son? I do not want to celebrate. I am beyond heartbroken.” I remember standing in that room and trying. I remember fighting every urge in my body to run out of the room. Nothing in me felt like celebrating. Everything in me wanted to run out in tears. I went through the motions; however, it was extremely difficult. Nothing in me wanted to be there or to celebrate. I just wanted my son. I miss him more than words can describe.
This year, 4 1/2 years after my son died, my two daughters decided to celebrate my birthday on a Saturday. My college girl surprised me by coming home to celebrate. The girls took me to my favorite Mexican Restaurant and to the movie “Wonder”. We had a wonderful day together. I thoroughly enjoyed each moment with them, and I truly experienced joy and laughter throughout the day with my two beautiful girls. I loved the movie Wonder. I loved the way that they were able to show the gifts that this boy had. I hurt as I watched the treatment that he received from others and for the pain that he experienced because he looked differently from others. I thought the movie did an excellent job showing the bullying and cruelty that some may experience in their lives and the pain and hurt that others suffer when they are treated this way. I loved that as the story continued that we could see that some of the characters in the movie learned to think more of others and that they learned to celebrate the gifts that Auggie had. I was thankful for the wonderful day with my daughters. On my grief journey, I continue to learn how to experience true joy in the moments that I have despite the pain and grief that live in my heart and mind. This was absolutely one of those days as I continue to miss and long for my son. Thank you sweet Kylee and MiKayla.
Often in grief, our feelings are overwhelming. It is often difficult to celebrate and enjoy the things that we used to when we are experiencing so much pain. My parents have been troopers with my two daughters and I as we have continued to try to learn to live without our two guys. We continue to learn how to have joy and celebration in the moments that we continue to experience in the midst of our grief. Kylee had a very sad day this past week. I remember coming home from work and looking into my daughter’s beautiful eyes and seeing that deep sadness and loss. She shared with me that she was having a very painful day missing her dad and brother. My heart hurt so much for her. My two girls have continued to grow and heal through these past 6 1/2 years. They have found joy and reasons to celebrate in their lives and in our times together. However, that does not remove the pain of their loss and the longing that they feel to have their dad and brother here with them. This is all a normal part of the grief journey. There is nothing wrong with missing our loved ones. The pain and the missing of them do not make us weak. The girls and I just need to continue to be real as we walk this journey and to continue to seek peace, healing, and hope.
A new friend of mine who is the sweetest lady recently lost her husband. They had been married for many years, and his death was a sudden, tragic accident. This is her first holiday season without her husband, and she shared with me that her Christmas was a challenge and very different. She asked how mine was and I shared with her that it is a mix for me… grief and sadness and joy and thankfulness all wrapped up in a bundle. She shared that she was trying to avoid self pity. I tried to encourage her that missing her husband is a normal part of grief and not self pity. She is a joyful, energetic, and wonderful lady, and I want to be there for her as she grieves. She has an incredible sister and family that are standing with her and walking with her as she journeys in her grief. However, she is experiencing the pain and longing that are normal parts of grief as she mourns the loss of her dear husband.
As I look back on the holidays through the years after my husband and son’s deaths then I can see the changes in me and in my journey. After my son died, then everything felt like a struggle. I would have this constant battle within myself- wanting to be the best for my girls but having no desire to celebrate without my son. The grief for my PK is so great.
This Christmas, in addition to having my parents here, then our dear Jiles family came and spent the day with us also. This brought the girls and I much joy as the Jiles family has been a part of our family and close to us since all of the kids have been born. Our day together was filled with much laughter. The kids all seem more like siblings as they are so close. We are so thankful that we live close to them again and are able to spend time with them.
For the last seven years since my PK was a sophomore in high school then we have been at the holiday basketball tournament each year just a few days after Christmas. My parents have been coming with us each year, and this has been a fun time for all of us. My mom’s birthday falls during the dates of the holiday basketball tournament each year, and we have made it a tradition to take one night and get her to Branson for a show as part of her birthday gift.
Last year and this year we have been able to go to a musical at the Sight and Sound Theatre. Last year we saw Moses, and this year we saw The Miracle of Christmas. They were both wonderful musicals and were encouraging and inspiring in our faith. The Miracle of Christmas so beautifully told the Christmas story and was so worshipful. Many times throughout the production, my eyes were filled with tears and my heart was filled with praise for the incredible love that we have all been shown in this beautiful Christmas miracle. As they portrayed the scene in heaven with the angels worshipping and rejoicing, then I tried to picture my son. I tried to picture my PK in the midst of that love that nothing can separate us from and in the joyous celebration that our hearts and minds can hardly even imagine. I tried to picture the love and joy that he must feel every moment that never ends. Those were beautiful moments for me in my grief and although those moments do not take away the longing or missing that I have for my son, I am so thankful that I was able to picture him in those moments being surrounded in love and joy that knows no end.
I not only enjoyed the beauty for myself personally, but I also loved watching the delight on my mom’s face and in her eyes. She was experiencing and feeling the entire production as well. Her heart and mind were celebrating with the cast. It is very special place. I love seeing how they view this not only as a production, but also as a ministry as they always stand and offer to pray with those who are there if any are in need or desire to pray with them. It is a very special place and one that I cannot recommend enough. I am so thankful that we have been able to celebrate mom’s birthday there for the last two years.
Meanwhile, our basketball tourney is going well. The girls have won the last two days and will be playing in the championship game tonight. I was a little concerned about them at Thursday’s game as our team seemed to be dragging. However, last night they came out and played with such energy, drive, and teamwork that it was a true joy to watch them and to cheer them on. After seven years of cheering on my children in this holiday tourney, then it is truly unbelievable that this is the last one that one of my children will play in.
I am thankful for all of the memories and wonderful times that we have had during this season. I am thankful for my wonderful parents who have continued to journey with us. I am thankful that the girls and I continue to find joy and reasons to celebrate in the midst of our grief. I am ever thankful to know that nothing can separate us from The Love of God. I am so thankful that we were able to experience His Love in such a beautiful way on Thursday as we celebrated my wonderful mom’s birthday. I am ever grateful that the girls and I continue to know that in the midst of our pain and grief that we are surrounded in love, that we can still find joy and hope, and that we can continue to pursue the peace that passes understanding.
For those of you who are hurting and grieving, I do pray that you will be able to find those same gifts… that you will be surrounded in love, that you will still experience joy and hope even though your hearts are hurting, and you will find the peace that passes understanding. Much love, healing, and hope to each of you.