“Through the years we’ll always be together..if the fates allow, Hang a shining star upon the highest bough, and have your self a merry little Christmas now”
For three days in a row, those were the words I woke up to as my clock radio went off. I have been struggling for the last few weeks regarding the upcoming holidays. I took this song playing repetitively as a sign from Mike that he would be with us and that I should go ahead and enjoy Christmas.
With the passing of Thanksgiving and the beginning of the “Holiday Season” I had been finding myself in a constant state of struggle. Sometimes I feel that because the kids and I, to the outsider looking in, seemed to handle Mike’s illness so well for so many years, everyone feels that we are handling his passing the same way. I sometimes think that because outsiders saw us living our lives, going to work and school and laughing, instead of walking around in a constant state of despair, they maybe thought that we were more than “OK”. The fact of the matter is, we’re struggling. My children do not have their dad and I do not have my husband.
Even though Mike was sick for 11 years - 8 of those years he was unable to walk and talk - we still had him home with us. We could touch him, talk to him and on the lucky days, see him smile. Emotionally, we don’t have that now.
I struggle on all levels with the holidays. I always found it difficult to “celebrate” Christmas while Mike was sick, but I found myself doing everything I could to make it special for the kids and Mike (it was his favorite holiday). As in years past, Courtney again is especially very much looking forward to Christmas. When I talk about my dismay at decorating, shopping etc, she gets upset. I know she wants to carry on in her dad’s footsteps, and enjoy every minute of the holiday, but I’m struggling. I want to enjoy everything, but the reality is I’m having a hard time.
I’ve never been one to feel sorry for myself. So many people have it so MUCH worse, but the truth of the matter is, I am a widow. I no longer have my husband in my life. The man I thought I would spend forever with is gone. I think back to last Christmas when I had a gut feeling that it would be Mike’s last. He looked worse than usual, yet when we took pictures and opened gifts, he seemed so “awake” and alert. I wonder whether he knew it was his last and whether he was trying to take in every single minute.
Since Mike’s wake and funeral, only a handful of friends have stayed in touch, which was the constant while he was sick. The funeral was crowded with old co-workers and friends, all sharing stories of the Mike they all knew and loved. The kids and I very much appreciated everyone attending and sharing their stories, but in the months since, only a few have remained in touch. The others have all continued on with their lives..
The holidays are already bringing some difficult emotions to the surface, emotions that some seem to forget that we continue to struggle with. The realization, that unbeknownst to us, last year was Mike’s last Christmas and then the reality that this will be our first Christmas without him. No doubt, the kids and I will survive. Our faith has carried us this far and I know it will continue to carry us through whatever God’s plan is for us. Mike’s love will remain with us and his spirit will never leave us. And whether that song from my radio was a sign from Mike or not, we will do our best to honor his love of Christmas and everything it means.