Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas without you

Last week, I sat shoulder to shoulder beside a mother whose arms were full of curly haired two year old.  The audience had been asked to squeeze in closer together to accommodate more show goers to the school's winter music performance, and somehow I got lodged between her and your dad.  She tried to make small talk with me and, well,... even the most surface chit-chat quickly leads to you, my love.   

My stomach churned to be forced to casually answer the dreaded question aloud, to lump you in with the dead, with your brother B.W.  It is still so wholly absurd, so wrong, that you are not here with us.   

The woman's toddler son bounced in her lap, his excitement bubbling over, when one of his sisters took the stage.  His mother shushed him gently as he pointed and called out her name.  The little boy seemed to be in awe of his sister while his mother beamed with pride.    

We ought to have had moments like that one, Zachary.   

It is our second Christmas since you died, and it is still so disorienting. 

Familiar holiday traditions, the excitement with which we used to approach them, seems to have been shattered right along with your perfect little body, almost two years ago.  Again, I could not bring myself to pull out the old artificial Christmas tree, the lights, the collection of ornaments, the myriad decorations, the playlist of Christmas music - all of the things that used to mean something to us.  Again, I couldn't bear to resurrect the tree in memory of your brother, or even any of his old ornaments; the implication that we add another memorial tree for you, our other dead son.  All of the old accoutrements to Christmas just feel like a sham, like they belong to another family, not ours.  

Participating in the "Christmas spirit" (not to be confused with celebrating the actual meaning and spirit of the historical first Christmas) feels foreign to me now.  I don't recognize it.  I don't understand it.  But, for C.T.'s sake, because he is still influenced by the stuff of Christmas, and by the enthusiasm of his friends and classmates around the holiday, we did buy a small live tree this year.  We delayed and delayed until a little over a week ago when the pickings were slim, so it is truly a sad, needle-dropping, specimen.  The tree is decorated mostly with handmade/hand-painted ornaments in your memory, a few new ones in memory of B.W. and of course, some crafty ornaments made by C.T.  This seems to be the only way I can tolerate a Christmas tree, something remotely festive, in our home. 

Christmas would be so different if you were here, Zachary.  I look at photos of C.T. on his second Christmas, when he was almost two years old, and I'm desperate to know, to concoct, to connect your 14-day life with, who you would have been on this day, in 2015.  

Like a fool, I keep wondering, pining. 

I love you and miss you.  On Christmas.  Every day. 


  1. We do things for Eva. Have a shelf for her. A tree like you have for BW and I can only imagine how I would feel to have to figure out another tree for another child (ren).would I have two trees? Three? Four? Would I instead do one tree for them all? I don't know and I can't fathom it at this time but I know that it would complicate my grief like crazy and my heart goes out to you Gretchen as you have to fathom the unfathomable. Every time I hear the name Zachary I think of your wee man. Be gentle on yourself mama. Grief is love. And Zachary is LOVED.

  2. It does complicate my grief. So much trying, in the in-between years after B.W. died, to make the remembrance stuff "acceptable". And, to then have to reconstruct it all after Zachary has died..., well it has sucked the life out of me.

    Thank you for telling me you think of MY Zachary, when you hear his name. In my mind's eye, I see the photo of you and Eva whenever I see "Em" or Eva's name.