We all have certain days that we dread as they swing back around the calendar. The anniversary of the day he died. Our wedding anniversary. His birthday. Maybe another special day we shared. But the holidays are among the worst. Most of us all have memories of the good times we shared, and going through it all without them…well it just sucks big time.
This time of year in Hawaii, the Snow on the Mountain comes into bloom. It’s called that because it blooms in winter when there is usually snow on our mountains here in Hawaii. The one in the picture here we planted together several years ago - his daughter Jamie gave it to us as a tiny little stick of a thing, and it has really grown. Mike so admired it, and we always commented each year as it bloomed a little bigger and a little more vibrantly.
The last Christmas we spent together in 2012 was among the best. It was actually a quiet year, but Mike was very full of the holiday spirit. He couldn’t wait to help me pull out all the decorations and put up the little fake three we’d bought together for our first Christmas back in 1999. I remember we spent many evenings that December on the lanai looking in at our little tree through the window, enjoying a glass of wine and the temperate weather, looking out at the sunsets over the ocean. Little did I know it would be our last.
Now when our Snow on the Mountain starts to flower I know it’s that time of year again. I can try and avoid the shopping craziness and the holiday commercials, but these beautiful white bushes all over town are hard to miss.
To top it off, this past week I found myself reaching out to welcome yet another member of our terrible club. I don’t know her (other than when she was very little and I babysat for her) but her parents are friends with my parents. I know her Dad quite well too and I am simply devastated for them all. She is far too young to be faced with the sudden and unexpected loss of her husband and father to their three young children. As many of us are. And it’s the holidays too. My heart is just breaking for them.
Thinking of her my mind goes back and replays the past nearly 22 months. How shocking and horrific that first day was…that first week…that first month. How people went back to their own lives - as they must, and how I was faced with having to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other again. How I drowned my sorrows for nearly six months in wine and frozen dinners. How I moved through my small world like a zombie. How I broke down on the floor surrounded by all his things, unable to breathe. How I finally, with the help of his daughters, went through, divided and sorted his things away. What a bleak empty place it left me in.
And I also think of some of the more positive strides I’ve made in the past year. Slowly, his space has been transformed into my home office. I didn’t set foot in here much for a long time but now I sit here typing this at his desk, sitting in his chair, looking out at the view he enjoyed, with some of this special things around me. And though it is bittersweet and I often sit here gazing around me in bewilderment as to how I got here, I’m finding a new foothold. Slowly, yes, but surely too. It surprises me some days.
And yet, despite all that…the holidays are still really hard. So many thousands and millions of people enjoying their families without the pain and loss we have gone through…so many people who really don’t know how good they have it. Last year I stayed here, looking out at the world through a kaleidoscope of painful memories. I patently ignored the holidays altogether as best I could, including the beautiful Snow on the Mountain. This year though I will be traveling to my parents’ place in Virginia. It feels like the right thing to do, to be with them, and my brother’s family, this time around. I’m hoping a change of scenery, and again, like on Thanksgiving this year, focusing on other people instead of on myself, will give me the breathing room I need to continue this journey into my strange new world.