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...
So another Christmas has passed us by, my third without my husband. Initially, I felt like this one was going to be a bit easier than my past two, and I guess in some ways it was.
However despite enjoying the festive build-up, the Christmas parties, house-decorating and gift-buying, the heaviness in my heart on Christmas day was unavoidable.
Here's the sucky thing about being widowed. Well, one of the many sucky things about it anyway. Holidays will always be hard. They will always be tarnished with lost love and that empty chair at the table. There is just no getting around it, and it doesn't matter how long it's been. I've been thinking about it a lot this year - my third since Mike died - because the more time that passes the more I realize that will simply not change. It's not like some future year I will just be blissfully happy without a care in the world or sadness and longing. It's just never going to happen.
So, today, December 18th, is the 10 year anniversary of my husband Don asking me to marry him, on a 23 degree windy Sunday evening, exactly one week before Christmas. Knowing my obsession with the Christmas holiday and the the entire season, he took me to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, got down on one knee in front of hundreds of total strangers and clapping tourists, and said: "Kelley, you are my best friend. Will you make me even happier and please also be my wife?" My fingers were so cold, I had to put my mittens back on right after he put the ring on my finger. Then I would take the mittens off, stare at the ring, then put them on again. We giggled and kissed and held each other, and then sat down at the nearby cafe that cornered the famous skating rink, and drank celebatory hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream. It was the kind of proposal that only happens in movies. But it happened to me.Read more
My Christmas tree is up. It nearly didn't happen. Again. I had that moment where I didn't see the point, with the same questions I've asked myself for the preview two years since he passed.
I thought 'I live alone, I won't even be here on Christmas day - I'll be at my sister's house. It's so depressing to decorate a tree on your own, why bother?'. Yet tradition and ritual won out over the sadness I knew it would bring.
In Zoar, Ohio, there is a tree farm that allows you to cut your own Christmas trees. Shelby, Megan, and I had been here a few times to shuffle through the snow, walking around so many firs, pines, and spruces, to pick the perfect specimen for our living room. Once located, I would proceed to lie on the ground and begin sawing. A few seconds later, I would be loading that tree onto a sled, and dragging it up the hill to the workers that would shake the loose needles off and bundle it before loading it into my truck.
It hadn’t quite sunken in yet when Sarah, Shelby and I did just that this past weekend.
We would get the tree home, and I would cut the bottom inch off of the trunk before bringing it into the house. I would load it into the stand, adjust all of the bolts that held it upright, and give it a few good shakes to make sure it was stable. If I was satisfied that it wasn’t going to fall over and crush a dog or child, I would water it, cut the twine off, let it unfurl, crawl under, adjust it away from the wall, and maybe give it a turn to hide any thin spots.
We did that last weekend, and it still hadn’t hit me.