One year ago, I went through the most stressful time of my life. My husband's job was working him about 100 hrs/wk on night shift, I was 9 months pregnant, and the older two were 3 years old and 22 months old. Oliver was born on a Monday around lunch time, and my dear sister Brenda died early the next morning. I hosted Thanksgiving dinner two days later in a house much to small to fit everybody, and the day after that made a 4 hour round trip (more like 6 hr, said and done) with the two tiny kids and a very fussy 4 day old for the funeral. The next week, my husband started his new job 3 hrs away, only to come home on weekends. I parented 3 under 4 alone from December until March, when we finally joined him. Things got a lot better from there, due largely to the fact that dh is so much happier here, in a job and a location that he likes. Now, if only our house in Iowa would sell!
This is not the first holiday season that we will spend without Brenda, but it is the first time her name will not appear on my master list for gifts and cards. Likely due to the shock of the fresh event last year, I'm much sadder this time around. Brenda's childlike mind made for some lively discussions and happenings at meals and get-togethers. Now, there is no one to take your drinking glass to the sink to be washed before you're finished with it. No one to watch out the window, nails between teeth, worrying over who's late to the present-opening. No one will pull out his or her notebook and start their Christmas list for the next year just as soon as the last gift is opened. And for the life of me, I MUST find one of her hand-tracings with her ring sizes written on each finger!
Brenda, Easter 2009
There has been time to process some changes before the 2011 Christmas checklist was written up. Now more than ever, for some sad reason, I'm flooded with gift ideas for her. Here's one huge thing I learned from her passing: DON'T WAIT! If there's a small thing that you think would brighten someone's day, don't wait for a reason to execute it. If you feel like you should send a quick card for no reason to someone, do it! As often as it seems birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays come around, there's really no telling if they'll actually get here, is there? Nothing drives that home like an unexpected loss.
So this year, as Thanksgiving approaches and I am inundated with the seasonal tasks of menu planning, gift making and buying, and calendar keeping, my very honest thoughts on thankfulness are as follows: Take my money. Take all that is in my closet and hanging on my walls. Take our cars and our house (yes, PLEASE take our house!). Take our fancy dinner and the table we serve it on. Just let me enjoy my family--my loving husband, my precious children, my generous parents and in-laws, my siblings, my precocious nephews, and those friends who are close enough to count as family--for another year, and may I be so blessed to have even more.
Happy Holidays, from my family to yours!