As we grow older we learn that the things we really want for Christmas are not things at all. If I had it my way, Santa would bring me Sam.
I took the day off work today to prepare for our annual friends White Elephant Christmas Party. My morning started by greeting our plumber who came to fix the toilet in Sam’s bathroom. Before he arrived, I anxiously wondered if he’d ask me about my baby as he had to go through Sam’s room to get to the bathroom. I decided I would simply respond, “He would be a year and a half.”
Sam never came up but before he left, I had him look at the knob on our bathtub in the master bath. I explained to him that a long time ago, Ted and I had our house cleaned and I thought maybe the cleaning ladies had accidentally done something to the handle and been afraid to tell us. He laughed and replied, “No! That wasn’t your cleaning lady! It was probably just your kids playing!” My heart stopped for a moment and I said, “My kids..yes, you must be right.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about Sam’s room as I’ve been decorating our house for Christmas this year. Not just that our plumber would see it but that our friends will come over tomorrow and see that nothing has changed since last Christmas. I’ve wondered if a year and a half is too long to have not changed anything and if my friends will come over and silently judge me that his room sits still.
I know we no longer have a need for a crib but it’s a tangible object that yells he was alive. It’s a space that was intentionally made for Sam. Unless you’re our plumber, when you know our story and you visit us in our home it’s physical proof that something’s missing when grief can so easily go unseen.
I intended to run into Hobby Lobby for picture frames, which I ended up foregoing, when I laid eyes on this elephant. I stared at him and knew he belonged to Sam. My heart began to sink because it was just another ‘thing’ that would get weathered if I chose to leave it for him but then remembered I was in Hobby Lobby and that maybe this elephant could be left with him. I decided my heart will never like decorating Sam’s grave for Christmas but that I have no choice in doing so. I bought my items and left.
I sat in the cold with Sam and decorated his tree. I carefully tied each red bow to match our family tree at home and hung each ornament. I told Sam that if he were alive, I’d be spending a lot more this Christmas season. In my head the words to Silent Night drifted in and out and I wondered how long we’ll experience silent nights.
When I finished I backed away from his headstone. I curled into child’s pose on the grass with my head to the dirt and I cried. I cried for a long time.
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This Christmas may we see the unseen in the lives of others and offer love.