This week began the “holiday season”…Thanksgiving and the rush of Christmas consumerism. I have heard from many that (and I quote) “holidays are hard when you’ve lost someone”. That, right there, is the biggest understatement I have ever heard. Throughout the week, as we prepared for the day, I felt really very removed from the process. I shopped for turkey and sweet potatoes. I thought about how to honor our son and his life. I thought about my deep gratitude for that life and for being chosen to be his mom. I worked, though somewhat halfheartedly. In all honesty, I kind of checked out mentally. I guess I needed to.
The holidays have always been my favorite time of year. I love the preparation, the decorating, the hunt for the perfect gift, the food, the festivities…and the people. I love all of it. Sean says I am kind of obnoxious in my enjoyment. I always told him that the holidays are a time of magic…when the best parts of our nature come out (ok, sometimes the worst part comes out on Black Friday, but I choose to ignore that!). People are in a generous mood…they want to give…it makes me smile every time I see a bell ringer or a donation box for the local shelters, etc. It reminds me of all the good in humanity. I think we all need that reinforcement after a long year of life. I sure do.
This year, however, I feel a little like an observer in my own life. A visitor, who is looking at all the comings and goings and understands the expectation but doesn’t have the heart for it. I have absolutely no interest in the hustle and bustle. Not a bit. I have seen that good in so many ways over the last few months…that pure, unselfish giving. It has been beautiful. But now, I am tired. Exhausted really. I am having a very hard time holding on to the good or searching it out. The forced merriment of the holiday season seems completely at odds with how I am feeling. I have moments of joy, moments of happiness. I like those moments. But, I do not have it in me to celebrate. I just don’t. I don’t want to decorate. I don’t want to bake. I don’t want to shop. I don’t want to be thankful. I want to stay home and wrap myself up in a cozy blanket with Sean and look at pictures of my son and be sad…or happy…or angry…or whatever I am feeling at that moment. But I don’t want to go out and be overwhelmed by the gaiety of it all…it feels harsh and pushes against my tender heart.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving. It was also 2 months to the day that we had to let Bennie go. We went to our family. We cooked. We had moments of happiness and laughter. We had moments of sadness and tears. We visited Bennie after dinner. We lit candles on his grave. We each wrote something we are thankful for and put the notes in a box and shared our thanks giving with him. Sean and I stood there, in the cold, and it was like the day had just happened. It was that deep, soul shaking, wailing kind of grief that sat with us as we talked to our son. I looked around and thought to myself, “It is so hard to be thankful when you are standing in a graveyard.” Because, in reality, I am SO extraordinarily grateful. So grateful to have been chosen to be Benton’s mom. So grateful for every single minute we got to spend with him. So grateful that I got to learn how much I could really love someone and how pure and good life can be. And I suppose, because of all of those things, it makes it harder to be without the one who taught them to me.
So, these holidays are going to be hard. Harder than I expected. I think I’ll go through the motions because they are familiar. I will participate as much or as little as I can. I will hang a few ornaments on our ficus tree and be OK with that. I will let the love of our family and friends surround us and understand that it will not be enough. I hope they will too. This is a private journey…I know many are on it with us in one way or another. I hope they can find their way through while we work on ours. I will allow myself to be an observer and not engage in the things that overwhelm my senses. Maybe one day, in a year, or two, or ten, I will want to do it all again…but if I don’t, that’s OK too. I think the loss of Bennie has taught me that the change that we so desperately didn’t want came anyway…we couldn’t stop it…and we can’t hold on to it too hard either. Because that change shifted every single thing about our lives. And we have to figure out what we want this “new” life to be. It might not include the things we once loved or that once fulfilled us. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be beautiful. It will just be different.