Yesterday, we received a great big box in the mail. Shelby drug it in through the front door, and we slid it across the living room floor, near the Christmas tree, to open it up. I zipped a pocket knife through the tape and she pulled open the top of the box to reveal presents of all shapes and sizes. She squirmed with excitement, while Mike and I stood watching her pull each one out and read off the “To” and “From” tags one at a time.
As she read them, my heart filled with joy. Presents from all of Drew’s family… his parents, siblings, aunt and uncles, to all three of us. It quite took me by surprise actually. I had assumed after moving away from them, and starting a new journey, that we might fade from each other’s lives a bit. I think I mentally prepared myself for that shift to happen some this Christmas. Instead, we received this great big box of goodies I could have never imagined...
It was like watching a beautiful moment in someone else’s life unfold, only it was happening in mine. It was all so surreal, to be standing there watching this 9 year old little girl, and knowing that she gained not only me, but a whole bunch of new family when I came into her life. Not just my family, but the family of my fiance… whom have decided to continue loving me and my new family as an extension of loving their son. It makes me wish everyone could realize that loving in this way helps everyone heal so much.
Our previously barren tree is now bursting with presents underneath it… before we have even finished getting all the ornaments on. This year, I will spend every day until Christmas looking at those presents in a way I’ve never looked at Christmas presents before. They are not only a reminder of love and family, but so much more. A reminder that I actually have a family now, which feels incredible but still so surreal. A reminder of Drew still being a part of my life, and a reminder that he and his family will continue to be a part of my life with Mike and Shelby for a long time. It’s a surreal and beautiful feeling. I can’t help but imagine all of our dead people - her mom, my mom, my dad, Drew - and the joy it brings them to watch all of us love each other so well, and continue to be in each other’s lives and celebrate each other’s new chapters.
I know it doesn’t always happen this way. I’m so acutely aware, as Drew’s parents were divorced and remarried. I have no relationship with Drew’s father and step-mom, who chose to isolate from me after he died. We haven’t spoken in probably 3 years now. I broke my own heart trying to keep a relationship with them for over a year, until I finally had to walk away. It is too painful for some, or they aren’t capable of seeing past the pain maybe, to be able to love. And so I lost them, and that connection to Drew. His mom and step-dad though, took the opposite approach. Instead of distancing from me, they pulled me closer. They took me in, literally, as part of their family. They knew that love is what we all needed to make it through. They showed me how much better it is to love than to isolate.
Love is what heals, and loving each other allows us to put that displaced love for our dead people somewhere beautiful and meaningful... into the hearts of others. Each of those colorful gifts under my tree this year is a firm reminder of this one idea:
It’s one I needed too, because all the change this past year had made me isolate a bit. I've felt myself harden to the outside world, putting up protective layers that aren't really serving me so well, in an effort to feel "safe". Which is great for my pride and ego, but hard on my heart honestly. It’s probably time someone reminded me to switch gears, and remember how much better it feels when I am busy being love instead of trying to hold walls up. An important reminder for us all. Be Love.