We have officially survived the holidays. I couldn't wait to take the tree down, to be done with Christmas. (That being said, Lydie's tree is still lighting up our family room).
Christmas Eve got to me. Justin, Ben and I skipped mass last year - the one time a year I usually go. I couldn't do it, couldn't be around happy families, couldn't hear about Jesus's birth, couldn't see babies in their little Christmas dresses. This year, I felt up for the challenge... but I started crying less than a minute into the opening song. "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," always my favorite, has such a different meaning when your child has died. In fact, they all do. Don't get me started on "Silent Night."
So I cried on and off through out the Christmas Eve mass. I daydreamed about the dress Lydie would be wearing, probably a hand-me-down from her cousin. In a way, I was relieved to have the tears. I needed to feel my grief, to feel my daughter so close. But I still wanted to rush out of that church, back to my parents' house for a big glass of wine.
Except I had to deal with one more trigger first: the family in the pew behind us. "How old is she?" the mom asked, gesturing at Josephine.
"Two months," I replied, with my usual demeanor now. Answer the question, don't be rude. But don't smile, don't be friendly, don't invite more questions.
She lifted up her daughter, and replied, "She was born last December. I'm always asking how old babies are to try to remember when she was that little."
Thank you for that.
Because my own daughter should have been born last December. My own daughter should be that big.
I nodded in response, as I often do these days, and got out of that church as fast as I possibly could.
So I was already on edge when we all sat down to dinner. My sister and I were in mid-conversation, and next thing I know everyone's saying, "Merry Christmas, Lydie. We love you, Lydie," and my brother has lit her candle. And I hadn't been paying attention to my daughter in that moment. I hadn't been focusing on her for that moment, as I try to do every night. I don't want to be pouring milk, I don't want to be mid-bite, I don't want to be doing anything else but thinking about Lydie. We don't say grace before meals but we do have a Lydie-only moment. And when I didn't get that on Christmas Eve, I flipped my shit.
I took off to another room to cry. And to miss her. And I shed some more tears through out the evening, as I wished she was gathered around with all the grandchildren to open one or two presents on the night before Christmas.
|Last year, a family photo was absolutely out of the question.|
This year, it was manageable, with our Lydie Bear, of course.
Christmas day was better, all around. My grief felt lighter. I was able to watch Ben dig through his stocking and spend all morning cutting up paper with the scissors Santa brought him (he did not want to open any other gifts after he received the scissors. Seriously.) I thought of my one-year-old daughter all day long, of course, but the love felt stronger than the grief.
It helps that Lydie has an amazing Oma and aunt. I had thought we'd have one missing name under the tree, but there wasn't; Lydia received gifts too. Ornaments for her tree, decorations from her garden, a little star that just made Aunt Laura think of her, a candle holder decorated by her cousin Lane.
|Lydie's loot. It warmed my heart to see her name under the tree.|
Sometimes I feel guilty that I'm not the mother I was before I lost Lydie. That instead of focusing on Josephine's first Christmas, I focused on surviving without my oldest daughter. So on Christmas Day, I tried to focus a little bit more on my living children.
More scenes from Christmas:
|My gift for Justin|
|And with the leftover letters, I made us all ornaments!|
|Three generations, on Bowie's first Christmas.|
|A gift from Lydie to her Dad, with a little help from Mom.|