Christmas 2016

When I think of Christmas 2016, I will think of the hellish month that led up to it.  I will think of the deep undying sadness of those days and the way Joey and I dropped all usual holiday priorities for things and people that were much more important.

I will think of the way we spontaneously volunteered to cook Christmas lunch for 15+ people, never having hosted that many people or even cooking a turkey before.

I will think of the week leading up to Christmas.  Of the supportive and understanding conversation I had at the book swap I went to.  Of the dinner I shared with Lori, Adam, Chad and Joey.  Walking through the Renaissance Hotel all decked out in holiday glitz.  Of the show we all attended that was so so inappropriate but also so so funny and how good it felt to laugh that hard.

I will think of the way Joey and I slow danced to Amos Lee in our living room.  How I stood in the doorway between our hallway and kitchen later that night, surveying our little home and our Christmas tree all lit up and feeling so fortunate and happy.

I will think of Joey’s grandma telling me she liked the restaurant I picked for Christmas Eve breakfast and realizing how much that kind of approval means to me.

I will think of how much work and preparation went into that Christmas lunch.  How many things we crammed into Joey’s truck to make it all happen.  How Adam, Steve and KJ got out the crystal, ironed the tablecloths and napkins and set the tables.  How Joey cooked the turkey perfectly, mashed the potatoes like a pro and made gravy like he’d been doing it his entire life.  It could not have gone easier or smoother and I could not have done it without this amazing person that uncomplainingly commits 100% to anything I get us into.

I will think of Lori and how she does so many things that make the holidays what they are.  She takes us to shows and dinners and movies and showers us with gifts and attention.  I could not possibly dream up a more loving mother-in-law.  I am not worthy, but I am so grateful.

I will think of my own mother.  Of how, even at 27, she makes Christmas feel just as special as it did when I was a little kid.  It has taken me this long, but I finally realize how much she puts into these holidays and how she does it all for us.  She is a saint and I love her so much.

I will think of Christmas Eve with Joey’s family.  How hard we all laughed as a present wrapped ten times was passed around the table, each of us taking a turn trying to open it with oven mitts on our hands.  There is a steady and reliable positivity about this family that is joyous to be around.

I will think about sitting in my brother and sister-in-law’s living room, passing around old pictures of my family, laughing at hairstyles and fashions of the past then watching Trolls with my niece and nephew.  I may have been way too into that soundtrack.

I will think of the hedgehog-shaped mittens Sharon bought Kyla, Javaiah and I just before Thanksgiving and how I could feel her there with us, even if just in spirit.

Mostly, I will think of that amplified feeling of love that was all around.

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For Sharon

In my head, I have started this post a million times.  Sometimes it has been a jumble of disjointed thoughts and emotions.  Other times the words have been so easy and clear.  Mostly, it has felt hard and heavy and I have been deeply avoiding this space and these words, for fear that writing them down will make this all too real.

On Sunday December 4th, our dear sweet Sharon passed away.  Just writing that down leaves me feeling gutted.  My father-in-law has lost his partner of 10 years. Kyla and KJ have lost their mother.  Mason, Javaiah and baby JJ have lost their grandmother.  Many have lost a co-worker, friend or family member who was undeniably kind, loving and a reliable source of positivity in this world.

Sepsis is a word I had never heard before but will haunt me for the rest of my life.  How can someone so young, energetic and vibrant be gone so quickly?  It feels soul-crushingly unfair.  I have, and will continue, to replay and rethink the past two weeks (and those three days in the hospital, specifically, in my head), but I won’t do so here.  I will, however, speak of the silver lining.

The family, friends and co-workers who came together.  Who stood outside her room in the ICU, who took over the family waiting room and camped out round the clock, who were generous with hugs, brought food, coffee or comforting words.  Who were unrelentingly supportive.  As we all stood in the hallway on that Friday night, the hospital chaplain commented on how many of us were there, to which, Joey’s aunt said, “can you tell she was loved?”  That she was.

The days following were a blur of tears, puzzle pieces — literal puzzle pieces, that is, because we’ve had one going at Steve’s house ever since — family and friends stopping in to visit or bring us food.  I’d find myself surrounded by people and laughter and love and feel so so happy only to remember the cause and feel like I’d been punched in the stomach.

Yesterday was Sharon’s birthday and she would have been 53.  Far too young to be gone from this world.  I don’t know what I’m doing right now.  I don’t know how to make all these hearts stop hurting and I don’t know how to heal my own, but I know we are all the better for having known Sharon and that she will be incredibly missed.

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