We knew our first holiday season without Liv was going to be particularly difficult. We had heard, unfortunately, from so many others who have traveled this road before us which was incredibly helpful. We talked with mourning parents about what to expect your emotions to be like, how to celebrate with your living child while remembering your child who has passed, starting new traditions that include remembering your child who is gone, etc... (As a side note, most of this information and advice came from some very wonderful people we met on a retreat for grieving parents called Respite Retreat held by the Guthries. You should look it up.) That being said, even though many families' experiences include similar things, we had to prepare for feelings, events, questions, and tears that we could not foresee. I have to say, we fared rather well, I think.
Christmas for us this year was not a day full of tears, though there were some. It was not filled with family, though it usually is. It was not about opening presents, though there were plenty. The three of us woke up late, ate breakfast and casually introduced Gabby to a few of her presents we had set aside from an earlier family celebration. We took some Christmas flowers to the cemetery and laid them next to an adorable macaroni wreath that a friend of Liv's had made and left with her. Then, we went to Children's Mercy to pick up a memory book that the staff had made and we had been waiting to see since September. The afternoon was filled with cooking before going to have dinner with some very dear friends. That night Brian and I lit a candle for Liv and cried, talked about how much we miss her, and remembered funny and sad stories.
This season has been difficult. It also happened to fall between four and six months since Liv has died, which we had heard often can be the most difficult months. I won't say we "made it through" because the pain won't stop just because we're taking the tree down. Yet, this Advent season (the four Sundays before Christmas) has taught us, more than ever, to long for heaven. I think in some ways I always have, but my understanding of the pain and the fleeting nature of this earth is ingrained somewhere very deep in me now because of our experiences these past 3 years. Because of that understanding, my grip on and devotion to the promises of God is locked tight. I truly, very deep down in my spirit, believe the things he promises, concerning heaven and otherwise. I have to. I wake up everyday and though I love so many things about my life here on earth, I understand even the best things to be broken and cracked and riddled with wrong intent or selfishness-- especially in myself. Thats exactly why Jesus had to come and I am realizing that the more you see this life for what it is, the more you realize the cost of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.
Sometimes thats why I go to the cemetery. To read Liv's headstone and remember that He is faithful in promises great and small. Faithful in life and in death, in plenty and in want, at the beginning of time and even now.