Sunday, December 6, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree...

originally uploaded by Gregor Halbwedl

Well, whatever the reason, reminiscing of Michael, teen children acting out, feeling untethered to this world, I fell into the well of despair last night. It was one of those less frequent torrent of tears that lasts for hours. My children all gathered around me, holding me. It reminded me of the nights after Michael returned home from his surgery two years ago, and how the reality hit me like a ton of bricks. There were so many tears, with heavy sobbing, that it brought on an asthma attack.

Today my chest hurts, as if I was in a head on collision, and the steering wheel is permanently embedded into me. I was able to sleep though, and a heavy sleep it was. By morning my youngest son was desperately trying to wake me up to get permission, and money, to visit the local flea market. I could hear him in my less than conscious mind calling to me, and laughing at my attempts to awaken. I suppose my level of awareness eventually met up with his request, as I heard myself say there is a ten on my dresser.

What a wonderful feeling to be free to sleep as long as I needed, well with a few interruptions. Eventually I rose from my basement bedroom, and eagerly awaited for that first cup of coffee. My son quickly reminded me that I had promised we would go buy a Christmas tree today. I decided it was probably a good thing to do after a night like last night. This way I have already visited that dark lonely place where the pain of Michael's death is shoved into my face.

So as battered as I felt, I loaded one very excited 11 year old, and one very put out 15 year old, and off we went to the local Christmas tree lot. We joked along the way about just chopping down one of our neighbor's trees, laughing at all the prospects, as none of them were pines. As we entered the tree lot, I was filled with that lovely familiar scent, and it gave me a warmth and comfort. I realized that bringing home a tree would actually be healing. I had already bought new ornaments a week earlier while out shopping. I was walking down the store isles, and saw the various decorations. It hit me that if we were going to have a tree, then it would easier to have all new ornaments rather than going through our large assortment filled with memories. The boys, well the youngest, couldn't wait until it was time to decorate. I went to fetch the new boxes, which were met with a confused face, as they were filled with ornaments in various shades of silver and gray. He said, "shouldn't there be different colors?" I laughed, and explained that I needed the tree to be a bit more somber this year. In the end both boys thought it looked beautiful. Now I'll just wait until my daughter drops by to get her reaction. I can hear her words already, "Dad, were having a slate Christmas?"

In place of our usual assortment of stockings, and individual stocking holders, I had purchased one heavy holder that simply says "Peace." It's the message that I want to strive for. As with everything else during this upcoming year, I want simplicity. I'm thinking that I will go out tomorrow and buy one singular stocking, which will be for Michael. While we do have a memory box for him, I want to have something special to collect our thoughts and prays for him. I will encourage the kids to leave him holiday greetings, and maybe I'll fill it with some of his favorite treats. Then on Christmas Eve we can gather to read the messages, and share the sweet treats.

The days ahead will be difficult I'm sure. Yet I want to find ways to incorporate Michael into our quiet celebrations. I want us to remember all the wonderful holidays with him, even if it makes us sad for a time. I would rather feel the pain of his absence while reminiscing, than try to get through these days as if he was never here.


  1. Dan,

    I really appreciate all of your posts because they resonate so deeply with me. But today I particularily identified with "I would rather feel the pain of his absence while reminiscing than try to get through these days as if he was never here." I so agree. And though in my family we are running away from traditions this year, we will bring Austin with us and continue to reminisce and feel the pain of his absence. Because that feels right.

    Wishing you peace today.


  2. Dan, if I had children, I would have got a tree but I don't feel like it this year. Next year however, I have promised myself (and Cliff) that I shall get one and dress it properly :-)

    It will be tough, and I think you've done absolutely the right thing by buying new decorations (I love the sound of the colour scheme) and especially the stocking for notes and treats for Michael.

    You are a wonderful Dad, and they sound like a credit to both of you.

  3. The idea of a single stocking symbolizing peace is an absolutely beautiful idea. I also like the idea of having a stocking for Michael, then filling it with notes, messages and treats to later share together. The new ornaments and color scheme is wise too. I am sure many who hear of these ideas may incorporate them into their own celebrations this year. I have been really struck by the idea of the peace stocking for my family.

    Despite the horrible loss and pain you are feeling this season, I think you are doing such an admirable job of showing your children how to face Michael's death with courage and love. You have incorporated going forward with honoring your husband and that can be very hard to accomplish. You are also facing your grief and not shoving it aside for the sake of the kids and all the holiday hoopla. I am impressed - you serve as an inspiration.

  4. Oh Dan, my heart flies out. This is so new, so raw. I am holding you close - so good to have your children close by. I too love the single stocking and the theme of Peace. Be gentle with yourself. Sending love in these dark days.

  5. I feel so blessed to get such caring support and feedback from all of you. I bought the single stocking today. It's pure white with a few snow flakes made with silver beading. Somehow it captured my eye. I plan to place my first note to Michael in it tonight.