Christmas is upon us. Tomorrow is the day. All the gifts are wrapped and under the tree. The house is decorated inside and out. Stocking are hanging from the mantle including Melanie’s. Rosie hung it up. I wasn’t sure if I was going to put it up but it seems like it should be there. We were watching TV last night and I kept staring at her empty stocking. There are no gifts for Melanie under the tree and her stocking will remain empty on Christmas morning. Rosie likes to remind me that Melanie is celebrating Christmas with God this year. It doesn’t make it any easier right now. I try to focus on the joy of having Rosie with new lungs this year and being home and not in St Louis.
This time last year we brought Melanie home from the hospital. I wanted her home with us just in case it was her last Christmas with us. I was trying to prepare myself but I’m not sure I really believed it would be her last Christmas with me. I hoped and prayed she would be listed after the first of the year like the doctor promised. I hoped and prayed she would get her new lungs. That day never came. The tears have been coming a lot lately. I’m kind of surprised that they are. I didn’t expect this to be so hard on me, Maybe it’s because I know how much she loved shopping. She loved giving gifts to family and friends, She saved her money and a lot of thought went into each and every gift she gave. She was great at stretching her money and if she didn’t have enough she would come up with an amazing homemade gift.
I don’t think one could have two more opposite feelings playing tug of war than I do this Christmas season. The almost over whelming grief of Melanie not being here and the unspeakable joy of having Rosie here with new lungs. Two polar opposite emotions living side by side in my heart. Rosie asked me if I was going to cry on Christmas. I don’t think she likes it when I cry. She focuses on Melanie being in heaven and how amazing that must be. I told Rosie I would try not to cry. I’m not sure I will succeed.
I worry about the first anniversary of Melanie’s death. I don’t know how I will handle it. The memories are already starting to replay in my mind. I try so hard to remember the times we had together. But the pictures in my mind are the ones with her laying in the hospital bed on a ventilator. My last hours and minutes with her. All the regrets. I wish they would go away and I could remember all the happy times with her. There are so many.
A few weeks ago I was boxing up the rest of Melanie’s things and I found an envelope with a Christmas card. Inside was all the money she had gotten for Christmas last year. She never had a chance to spend it. I thought for a while what to do with it. I had several ideas but the best one came to me a day or two later. 13 years ago we started a family tradition. We would go downtown to see the Christmas lights and mail the kids Christmas letters to Santa. We decided to eat at The Old Spaghetti Factory that night because it was such a beautiful old building and a really neat place to have a special dinner. The kids loved it and the next year asked it we were going to do it again. So a new family tradition was born, Last year Melanie was in the hospital and was really disappointed that we didn’t get to go. We promised that we would go when she got out of the hospital even if it was after Christmas. That day never came. She was home for Christmas, we moved her to my mom and dads the day after Christmas (a condition from the doctors so she could be listed) and then we had a huge winter storm that shut down the whole city for about 5 days. Shortly after that she was back in the hospital again and then she was gone. We didn’t get to do our tradition last year. So when the thought came to me that we should use her Christmas money to pay for our dinner this year I knew she would approve. It was her Christmas gift to all of us this year. So Monday the 22nd we went downtown to The Old Spaghetti Factory and continued our yearly tradition. We even added Adam’s girlfriend Rachel to the mix. She and Melanie never met but I know Melanie would like her. I’m sure they would have been good friends.
I am thankful for that gift Melanie left us. I am thankful that Rosie is here with us with her new lungs and so full of energy. I wish Melanie could have gotten her new lungs and been here with us this year. I’m sure I would have been exhausted between the two of them! But God had different plans. He allowed it to be this way for a reason. A reason I can’t begin to understand but I have to trust that His ways are better than mine. And someday I will be with Melanie again. And even though it seems like such a long way away, I trust that God will give me the strength I need to get through this life until it is my time to join Him.
I pray you all will have a Merry Christmas with the ones you love. Never take a moment for granted. Never put something off until tomorrow or next year. We are not guaranteed that day will come.