This was our second winter without you but of course, as ever, you were very much here.
We go into the hills to remember you, but the act feels pleasantly unimportant. We return there again and again so the trip has taken on a friendly familiarity. We gift ourselves the regular routine of remembering, but hold you, hear you, always unforgotten in our hearts. We speak of you, think of you but there doesn’t seem much need to mourn you when it feels like you just popped out of the room.
It turns out losses really do make for gains, even though at first we may greet them kicking and screaming. Your absence brings gifts I would have never thought possible. In fact I’m not at all sure even you would have believed it.
We are ourselves but different, closer than we ever were before. We speak more, say ‘I love you’ and ‘thank you’ more often. We fight just as much, but make up faster.Without you to mediate, we’ve had to learn to forgive faster, let go more easily. That doesn’t mean its never a struggle but underneath is love like rock.
I think we’ve learned to be kinder.
We try to remember what matters, to let death be a lesson we will never forget. We try to love one another as we loved you dying, to act as that terrible ‘terminal’ taught us.
This year mum gave up on her usual holiday to stay with us for Christmas. She dug out the decorations she hates to dust, and bought the real tree she loathes to hate, just because she knew it would make me happy. That really did make me happy. I was touched beyond tinsel at simply knowing myself so very much loved.
I did more dishes, made more tea, and knew that to her that spoke more eloquently than any words. I guess at heart we all know how to show love so it speaks. When I think of that simple truth I am not quite sure how it is we all too often lose it in the translation, or let it slip down the to do list after buying the turkey and trimming the tree.
It takes a little leap of courage to put love out and not know for sure it will be given on back. And all too often we are timid in our faith, comfortable in the conveniences of silence.
There are gifts that cannot be matched but there is still grace to be found in giving, in reciprocating. It is never enough and yet from what we have we must make enough.
I swore I won’t let the empty seats eat up our special days and they didn’t. Loss seems to have carved more room in our hearts but those spaces fill on up as soon as we let them.
A friend got in touch at the last minute to say she was in the UK on holiday alone. In the midst of all of the frenzy of table settings and gift wrap and superficial nonsense, I was plain proud to be from a family who’ll make anyone welcome on any day of the year. You would have flirted and loved her just for being so far from from her family on Christmas day. We spoiled her for you.
Together we made it to midnight mass off key and awkward, not knowing when to stand or sit or which verse to sing, brought in Christmas morning with cold kebabs and then got a ‘bugger off’ from M for dragging him into the day. So much for Santa. It was all wrong, off-kilter and somehow wholly right, perfect, and just as it was meant to be.
There is nothing missing.