There is not a second that goes by that I don’t realize how fortunate we are to have Brayden here with us this Christmas. Baby’s first Christmas is as much for mom and dad as it is for baby. And the past two days have been such a blessing. So full of joy. So full of love.
My days leading up to today have been full too. Full of the hustle and bustle that have come to define the season. Shopping, wrapping, visiting. Singing and dancing to Christmas carols in the living room with a little one bouncing in my arms. Santa photos. Planning for travels. Packing for overnight visits. The days have been non-stop.
I didn’t take a lot of time to think about the reason my heart has been hurting. Didn’t take a lot of time to sit alone with Ryan in my heart. Not this year. Not compared to the entire season being devoted to him last year.
Yes, wistful smiles crossed my lips as I hung his ornaments this year. Trying to comprehend how we were embarking on our second Christmas without him, and how truly different this year looks from last.
New traditions began as we trudged through the snow at the cemetery on Christmas Eve to decorate the tree nearest his resting place with cute little ornaments Santa’s elves must have dropped off in his stocking.
We lit his candle on the mantle and it burned all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Ryan Bear never sat out of sight. Slept in my bed.
And yet, it wasn’t until 3am on Christmas morning, as I sat in the dimly lit bedroom, feeding this little bundle in my arms, this little baby who has brightened so much of my holiday season this year, that I realized I had finally slowed down long enough to think of him. Truly think of Ryan. And how even though so much has changed, so much progress has been made, one thing has stayed the same.
I still miss him. And he should still be here.
I wish I had an active one-year-old tearing open gifts and cheesing it up for the camera. What it must feel like to see your two boys posing together in matching pjs by the Christmas tree.
I still miss Ryan. And here on our second Christmas without him, I’m reminded that no number of incredible blessings will ever take away the sting of his absence. The injustice of the empty place at my table. The pain of the hole in my heart.
In my life, Christmas has always been a time for family, and here I am, with this little family I never expected to have, and I make it work.
Brayden’s first Christmas was a beautiful, wonderful, special, and joyful occasion to be certain. And it was full of special little touches of Ryan that brought some extra special light to the celebrations. And although this Christmas was abundantly more joyful than our first without him, it wasn’t much easier. It was full of complicated emotions. But I’m proud of how special and joyful we were able to make it for Brayden. I’m proud of how we continue to find ways to celebrate the season and Brayden and Ryan all at the same time.
I hate that he’s gone. I hate that I have to miss him instead of cuddle him and tuck him in at night. But I love that he is part of my family. I love that even in his absence he has become part of our Christmas traditions and I know in time those traditions will only gain in strength and importance.
And so, from my little family to yours, no matter what your family looks like, or how you choose to celebrate it this holiday season, we wish you all the best this Christmas and in the year to come.