I had to buy all new stockings this year.
Last year, I had coordinating stockings for the four of us - for Dad, Mom, Gavin and Brian. This year I needed to buy one for Hope - but they didn't have one to match the four I had. Then I went through a period of ambivalence - wondering if hanging Gavin's stocking when he wasn't going to be there with us would confuse...or even upset Brian. In the end, I bought all new stockings... including a brand new one for Gavin. And it was the right decision. For all of us. I love that his stocking falls right smack in the middle - and hangs directly under the picture of his pier in Ocean City.
Brian and I had a fun day on Christmas Eve baking cookies for Santa! He was able to wear his special apron that he made in school - a moose made from his hands, feet and thumb prints. Brian took his baking duties very seriously, as you can see. We made Raspberry Drizzle Cookies!
Granny arrived at dinnertime to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with us and I was so glad. This was her second Christmas without my Dad - and our first Christmas without Gavin. We all made a pact - Ed, my Mom and me - that we would be strong for Brian and for each other.
Don't misunderstand - the glaring absence of Gavin was heartbreaking. Spirit crushing. Devastating, indeed.
But as we set out our cookies for Santa... it was hard to ignore the beauty in this Christmas.
If I even attempted to put into words what it feels like to grieve one child while embracing a new child... what it feels like to watch Brian love on his new little sister while knowing that he misses his brother so much... what it feels like to watch a tear fall from your husband's eye while he holds his baby daughter and know that he's just as torn and conflicted...
If I even attempted to put that into words - I would fail.
But Gavin was there.
After we put Brian to bed - the most incredible thing happened!! We heard Santa outside!! We all rushed up to his room and woke him up so we could all get to the window. Sure enough, we were right! We could hear Santa's bells - he must have been headed to one of our neighbors. He sounded SO close!!! I'm pretty sure we heard reindeer, too.
When Brian went back to bed, I told him I was going to set up my camera in front of the tree - in hopes of "catching Santa." He went to sleep with a smile on his face.
Christmas morning reveal!!!
We couldn't believe it - but I somehow managed to capture Santa with my camera in the middle of the night!! It looks like he was just finishing up and putting Brian's "Captain America" shield under the tree.
Brian wanted to open his stocking first...
Photos from Christmas morning...
A Star Wars "AT-AT" was a TOTAL highlight of Brian's Christmas!
(And probably of Ed's Christmas, too!)
Brian was happy to "help" Hope open her gifts and showed them all to her (even though she slept through the whole thing!).
We exchanged gifts with each other, too. Brian gave Ed a frame for his office. One side was one of his new school photos - and the other side was a painting he made.
As we were sitting on the floor opening presents that morning, I suddenly noticed a ladybug crawling on the floor in between me and Hope. I couldn't believe it. How random!! Ed loves ladybugs. And we both feel that seeing something like a ladybug - or a butterfly - so out of the blue is like a "hello" from Heaven. In that moment, we knew - without a doubt - that Gavin was among us. And I'm sure my Dad was, too. I instantly remembered the book I loved to read to Gavin - a special book between us. "On the Night You Were Born." (See the bottom of this post for an excerpt that will explain...)
The rest of the day we played... and played... and played. Brian was thrilled with all of his new toys. Ed made a super-cool fort and the three of us all climbed in and read books.
Our first Christmas without Gavin was sad. His presence was missed more than I can even articulate.
Our first Christmas with Hope was happy. Her presence held us together and brought us so much joy.
So what does it feel like on this Christmas of firsts?
I wish I could explain... but it's impossible. All I know is this. Holiday or not, every day spent without our son feels gut wrenchingly painful. Every day we choose to find joy and live our lives in a way that will honor his - because there is no other option that is acceptable to us.
And on Hope's first Christmas - we are reminded that even in our darkest hour, there is light around the corner. We are so grateful for the gift of this baby girl. She is truly healing our hearts.
Merry Christmas to all.
Excerpt from "On The Night You Were Born"
Not once had there been such eyes,
Such a nose,
Such silly, wiggly, wonderful toes.
When the polar bears heard,
They danced until dawn.
From faraway places,
The geese flew home.
The moon stayed up until
Morning next day.
And none of the ladybugs flew away.
So whenever you doubt just how special you are
And you wonder who loves you, how much and how far,
Listen for geese honking high in the sky.
(They’re singing a song to remember you by.)
Or notice the bears asleep at the zoo.
(It’s because they’ve been dancing all night for you!)
Or drift off to sleep to the sound of the wind.
(Listen closely…it’s whispering your name again!)
If the moon stays up until morning one day,
Or a ladybug lands and decides to stay,
Or a little bird sits at your window awhile,
It’s because they’re all hoping to see you smile…
For never before in story or rhyme
(not even once upon a time)
Has the world ever known a you, my friend,
And it never will, not ever again…
Heaven blew every trumpet
And played every horn
On the wonderful, marvelous
Night you were born.