Well… I managed to get through my 5th Christmas without you. Christmas Eve seems to be extra hard for me as that was always our family’s big celebration; we, of course, celebrated Christmas Day as well… but there was always something extra special about Christmas Eve for us. It was just… magical.
This year I was in Maryland for the Holiday and it was the third one in a row where I didn’t celebrate back home in Minnesota with family. It hasn’t been intentional, but I’ll admit that I do find it easier to be away from all the reminders of you during this time of year. Somehow it’s easier on me to be in new or unfamiliar surroundings where the ghosts of our Christmases past aren’t circling around me like vultures waiting to prey on any bit of happiness I manage to muster up each Christmas now. I suppose it’s that your absence is all the more obvious when I’m engaged in the “usual” traditions without you. It’s just not the same and, quite frankly, it hurts. I know so many survivors who have changed the way they celebrate the holidays… even going so far as to take a trip far away during that time of year just to get away from all of the reminders.
This year I managed to get myself sick, too. While in Maryland I managed to have myself a little meltdown a few times because, well, I was feeling terribly sick; so on top of the deep sadness I was feeling inside over missing you, I felt as though I was tossing a wrench into the holiday celebrations of people that I care very much about. I had myself a few tear-stained pity parties when I found myself alone in a room for a bit. I was also struck with the grief of feeling guilty when I found myself having moments of joy without you; though I know you’d want me to find happiness, a part of me punishes myself for allowing myself those instances where I realize I’m moving on without you. It feels like I’m betraying you and I don’t think that guilt will ever completely go away.
Christmas Eve I was alone for a good hour or two; my sweetie wasn’t feeling well, his parents had gone to Christmas Eve Mass and his sister had returned to her home. I sat there alone on the couch in the deafening quiet and stared into the lights of the Christmas tree and my mind drifted back to holidays past. Suddenly I could see your face and hear your laugh and my heart longed to go back and relive even just a few minutes of any one of those nights. My eyes filled with tears upon the realization that the only way I’ll ever spend Christmas with you again is just as I did on the couch that evening– with your ashes in a pendant worn around my neck and with your signature tattooed on my left wrist and your essence forever burned in my memory.
There used to be a home video of you opening a present from me on Christmas Eve back in 1994. I’d given you a hilarious gift and I told dad to keep the camera on you as you opened it because I knew it was going to be a fantastic moment. And it really was. For about the next 15 minutes straight you laughed and laughed and laughed and I could hardly contain my joy seeing you enjoy the gift so much. A few months after you died, I searched frantically through every single one of VHS tapes of home movies to try and find those few minutes of footage and, to my dismay, it no longer seems to exist; it was taped over by something far less meaningful and my heart broke all over again when I realized it was gone. I’d give anything to see that video again… to see and hear your laughter again. Particularly since the last few years of your life your sadness was palpable and I’d love to be able to relive those moments of your pure happiness and perfectly infectious laugh.
I truly hope that wherever you are now that you’re free of that deep sadness that burdened you at the end of your life.
Merry Christmas, dude.