“And can it be that in a world so full and busy the loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up?” — Charles Dickens
Well there is no way around this, there is only through it…Christmas…
Debbie loved Christmas. She loved planning for it, would start before Halloween; she loved decorating and baking and shopping for it, getting the tree up and the house ready and getting the kids excited. Debbie smiled all year, but at this time of year it took on an even brighter glow.
I can’t say I shared in Deb’s Christmas enthusiasm, certainly not starting in October, but by Christmas Eve, after getting home from work, usually a few hours earlier than normal and with a few days relief from duty on tap, I’d finally let the Christmas spirit in. Although the house had been decorated for weeks, it often felt like I was seeing it for the first time on Christmas Eve – I’d actually have the time to appreciate the extra effort put in to the stockings hung with care above the fireplace, the smell of cookies and other goodies baking, the beautiful tree that took two days to decorate, each ornament carefully placed to let those who bought the special decorations know how much she appreciated it (and also to keep them from becoming Boo’s Christmas presents!), and to feel the love that Deb planted throughout the house.
And the Christmas Eve party itself was always an exercise in Martha Stewart perfection – every menu item carefully planned and choreographed with the drinks and the festivities and the theme of pure joy. And though the juggling act of keeping sixteen appetizers warm, all the drinks filled and the laughter and smiles non-stop would have left most exhausted and frazzled, this was the pinnacle of Deb’s love – this was her best dance, and she pulled it off with a grace and ease that would leave all applauding, a standing ovation every time.
Deb still found the energy to clean the entire house after the party in preparation for Santa’s arrival, and then we’d get the boys gifts’ together (this was usually the first time I even knew what they were getting) and she’d spend half an hour perfectly placing them under the tree while I nodded off. And finally before going to bed in the wee hours, the plate of cookies had to have just enough crumbs and lip marks on the residual glass of milk to make believers out of even the most skeptical of boys.
Morning would come too early, but Deb was always just as excited as the boys. And her payoff was just simply the smiles and excitement of two young boys romping through the most anticipated morning of the year, with all their wishes fulfilled perfectly. It was truly a work of art; Christmas was Deb at her very best, a ballerina dancing a pirouette of pure joy.
Christmas will be different this year. Christmas is not my dance; I will do my very best to make sure the boys have the best possible Christmas I can give them, and in the end it will be enough. My boys have impressed me beyond my wildest imagination with their ability to handle the challenges they have been given, and they have lifted me up on angel’s wings too many times to count the last six months. They won’t find perfection under the tree this Christmas morning, but they will certainly find all the love I can muster for them, and they will understand in time that it is good enough, though it will not be even remotely close to the splendor of Christmas’ past.
Christmas won’t be the same this year – it will never be the same again – and when the last present has been unwrapped there will still be a gaping hole in our celebration, in our hearts, a hole that no one, no thing, can ever fill…
I worry how the boys will deal with this. I try to recall my Christmas’s after dad died, but I can’t, those memories have been lost. I can still remember some Christmas’s from before dad died, though, when Santa was magic and still real; they are good memories, memories of waking up before dawn, of my sister riding her rocking horse in the glow of the Christmas tree, her hair flailing and her silhouette visible to the neighbors across the street still putting toys together for their own kids.
And I remember most that Santa brought me a train set every year, even though I didn’t ask for a train set, I didn’t want a train set; but dad did. He loved trains, and wanted to share that love with his son. So its funny, the gift dad got for himself is the one I remember the most out of all those years of presents; and for that I am now grateful, even if I wasn’t at the time.
I have only one gift that I want to give the boys. I want to convey to them this Christmas how much their mom loved them. And I want them to keep that in their hearts always.
So I’ve asked the boys to write down a favorite memory of mom from Christmas, something that we can share, and reminisce about, something we can hold on to when it sinks in sometime, in the quiet part of the day, when it becomes too obvious that it is just us boys this Christmas. I hope we will share these memories, and that we will laugh, and we will cry, and we will hold on to each other and to the memories of this beautiful woman, best friend, wife, the most loving mother a boy could ever ask for. And then we will burn our gifts, and let the offering waft up to the heavens; I want this to be something we do every year.
I will share the stories of mom’s Christmas dance, of what the boys didn’t see; of the love and effort and caring that she put into even the tiniest of her Christmas preparations, of the thought that went in to each gift, and how she got blacklisted from Target for taking things back too many times even before Christmas, trying to get it just right.
I will share that Christmas represented mom giving her all, her unconditional love, to her beautiful boys. A child doesn’t understand love, but cannot thrive without it. My boys are doing so well, are such strong spirits and good souls, because Debbie loved them with all her heart, unconditionally, the way only a mother can. She may be physically gone now, but that will always be Debbie’s gift to them, and to me, and it needs to live on in our hearts.
And I will share that Deb’s presents were wrapped in her hopes for everything that the boys could ever want, fulfilled. Her decorations were put up far in advance to prepare their hearts to graciously receive gifts, and she steadfastly kept them on the right track in preparation for this day, for it’s gifts are worth the straight and narrow way, and the wait. And her Christmas Eve party was her glorious way of sharing this love with all those she cared about.
But mostly this Christmas I will share with the boys the grace and beauty of mom dancing her most glorious dance, her Christmas dance, the dance of her love for her two boys, which she lived her life to learn, to share and to pass on…
For a Dancer – Jackson Brown
Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found
I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening
And I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round
Crying as they ease you down
‘Cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(Right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(There’s nothing you can do about it anyway)
Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours
Another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone
Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound
Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you’ll never know
Merry Christmas, Debbie…Love you, Always and Forever