Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Memories


It goes without saying that this time of year can be as uplifting as it is heartbreakingly difficult.  To me, it has always been a time when I reflect on all of my many Christmas's past, fondly remembering the magic that filled my house when I was a child myself and hoping I am doing a good job recreating that for my own children.  Christmas marks the time of year for memories old and new, getting together as a family, going "home" and making a conscious effort to do something kind for others.

Naturally, it is also a time when absence is most obvious. A glaring reminder of our loved ones who are not coming home this time.  When memories only remind us of who is missing.  Every single person who has lost a loved one can relate to how the missing person in our lives becomes that much more absent - even when we least expect it, we may be knocked over the head with longing. There's just something about that Christmas tree, the smell of cookies, the gingerbread house - that allows the memories to come rushing in.

I miss Ty every second of every day and I don't want to spend tonight reflecting on the immensity of that reality this time of year because I don't think I can bear it. Instead, I want to take a minute to remember my Grandma.  As I was preparing packages to bring to my in-laws for Christmas Eve, I was reminded of her. She died just before we lost Ty.  She was 94 years old, and I didn't get to mourn her because I was mourning something that much heavier - but today I felt her and I remembered her, and I imagined her laugh and I teared up thinking about her warm kisses on my cheek.  It is a very different longing, of course, and I was so happy to dedicate such time to her memory this morning.  I loved her so very much, she was such a huge part of my life, and I am grateful for Christmas memories with my Grandma.

Last night, Lou and I finished wrapping, baking, cleaning, and fell into the couch by the Christmas tree at the end of the night.  We talked about all of our past Christmases with smiles on our faces, until eventually those smiles turned to painful, gut-wrenching tears (as was inevitable).  I love to remember Ty.  I allow myself to fall into the dangerous throws of missing him because at least I am feeling him and honoring him.  But remembering our most difficult days - his cancer and how he suffered immeasurably - is something that I try to avoid for self-preservation.  It is a most slippery slope and the most difficult to recover from.  It is what haunts me every night when my head hits the pillow and it drives me to pour my heart and soul into his foundation so I can feel like I am doing something about it.  I can't fix what happened to Ty, but maybe for other children in the future.

Ty loved Christmas more than I have ever seen a kid love Christmas.  It was beautiful, and we made sure to enjoy it with him.  In 2010, we celebrated what was supposed to be his last Christmas - he was home on hospice care for the first time.  As you know, we were granted a Christmas miracle that year and the tumors in his spine disappeared spontaneously.  By Christmas 2011 we were filled with such tremendous hope!  Ty was cancer free and he was recovering so well - until just a week before Christmas when he suffered a post-radiation brain bleed that left his left side partially paralyzed.  It was such a tremendous blow, but we were determined not to let it spoil his "Crimpy" and so was he!  We made the greatest memories of all that year.  I remember it so well and I will forever cherish every minute of Christmas magic.  Then, in 2012, he was gone.  How is that even possible? 

Instead of saying "Merry Christmas" to my friends who wear the same shoes as I do, I wish that tomorrow can bring them a lot of genuine smiles despite the tremendous sense of "nothing" that otherwise consumes us during the holidays.  Tonight, I watched Gavin open some gifts and I smiled real smiles the entire time.  I watched Lou make Santa's footprints by the fireplace and smiled another real smile remembering how much Ty LOVED that trick (and imagining Gavin's reaction tomorrow morning).  I enjoyed a delicious feast with family and I laughed out loud throughout the night..  I watched the biggest, most beautiful snowflakes falling outside and I got lost in the magic of this holiday once more.  I will never be able to look at Christmas lights the same way because there is a sting in the tail every time, but I can still enjoy them when the stinging subsides.  Life is returning and I am glad I can appreciate all of the beauty that I am surrounded by despite my pain.  Cancer didn't take that away.  Cancer didn't win.

Whenever I think about the shopping and the commercialism and the frantic stress over exchanging gifts, I remind myself of the moment we pulled up to our house after our Make-A-Wish trip to find 12 or more tremendous lawn blow-ups and enough lights to see our house from outer space.  How an entire community came out to surprise us with the best Christmas decorations I've ever seen, some friends driving more than 2 hours to help out in the freezing cold.  That, right there, is what Christmas is all about.



For those who celebrate, I hope tomorrow is filled with laughter and beautiful new memories.  Let's all remember to put down our phones and enjoy the company of our family and friends.  We wish everyone a wonderful 2014.  Thank you, always, for the love and support you have shown us every step of the way.



10 comments:

  1. I'm thinking of you and your family as I put my kids gifts under the tree. I was just out on my deck and saw how clear the sky was and how bright the stars are and knew that Ty was in the heavens looking down tonight especially. Always thinking of you all, and never forgetting sweet beautiful Ty. God bless you all. I hope you feel Ty with you at Christmas today. Xoxo

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  2. Merry Christmas to one of the most amazing families I know. Ty is such a miracle.

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  3. Merry Christmas Lou, Cindy, Gavin and that special angel in heaven. Thinking about you always!

    Love, Joy Marielle
    Baltimore, MD

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  4. Cindy, you are beautiful. You are unique. Be proud of all you have done and continue to do despite your tragedy. I hold my boys more dear because of you.
    Thanks for this beautiful Christmas rememberance.
    Love
    Christine in NJ

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  5. Dear Ty, have I told you that you made me fall I love with your love of holidays?! I don't celebrate Christmas in my house but how much I love and respect your holidays and how I feel your magic. How I wish you were here with your mom baby Gaga and daddy. How I wish times were still. I hope your family continues to live with joy and laughter more than with sadness and tears although I know it's probably impossible knowing that lost you. But as a hard though hits me I always remember that you are now pain and cancer free happy boy flying all around us and smile comes to me again. I love you baby boy. Always!

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  6. We wish you a Merry Christmas!!!
    Xoxo-Jessica

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  7. Merry Christmas! I wore my Pre*Ty bracelet tonight and got TONS of compliments on it.. I told of Ty's story and the meaning behind the gold.. Hopefully you will get new customers!! I wish you Peace Live and Good Health for 2014 and always

    Love Gabrielle

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  8. Merry Christmas! Your family was in our thoughts and prayers today. My son prays for him every night and asked his guardian angels to give ty snowflakes and butterflies for Christmas. All my love to you, lou, gavin, and ty!

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  9. I opened my beautiful PRET*TY bracelet Christmas morning. It's beautiful and it will have a permanent home on my wrist forever. I've gotten several compliments on it and shared Ty's story every time. But the best part of the gift was the teeny tiny gold stars that spilled out of the pouch when it was opened. What a great way to package such a wonderful gift. My four year old is on a gold star mission. Every time I see one shimmering in our carpet I can't help but smile and think of Ty and what an extraordinary perfect little boy he is.

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