happy birthday, Jesus

In the last year-and-a-half I have befriended a handful of people that I probably wouldn’t have if it was not for my Jackson moving to Heaven. I’ve become close to other moms who have also lost children. Some of their kids were young like Jackson, others in their middle school years and another as a teenager. It’s always nice to talk with them because they truly understand what I struggle with on a daily basis. They understand the depth of my pain. I don’t have to ever put on a front for them. When I’m having a bad day because the hurt is too great, I can just sit and cry. No words need to be spoken because they understand.

Throughout the first year, I would hear from my newfound friends that “the second year is harder”. I always thought that was the craziest idea. How in the world could that be? There’s an immense, excruciating pain when your child is ripped away from you, and I just couldn’t imagine it getting any worse. Every day was (and is) a struggle, and going through all of the “firsts” was especially so.
But what I’m finding out now is, for me, sometimes that is true. The first year after Jackson left us to be with Jesus is a blur. I was going through the motions because I had to. I lived in a constant fog.
I made a promise to myself after Jackson moved to Heaven. I was not going to let our enormous loss ruin Kate’s life. She deserved every bit of happiness that life has to offer, and I was going to do everything in my power to make sure she got it. So, I was putting a smile on my face for Kate. I was getting the minimal things done at the house that had to be done. I was helping out at Kate’s school. Even though life was the extreme opposite of normal, I was trying to make it as normal as possible for her. But honestly, I don’t remember much of the year.
And now as we’re halfway through our second year without Jackson, and in the depths of the Christmas season, I’m finding it to be harder than last Christmas.
No matter what anyone says, time does not heal from the loss of a child. It’s been a year-and-a-half, and the pain is still unbearable. What Eric and I are figuring out is that over time, we are learning how to cope with our grief.
Last Christmas I could have skipped the holiday altogether. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and stay at my house. I did minimal shopping. I didn’t join in the neighborhood caroling or cookie exchanges. I stayed as far away as possible from Christmas parties.
This year though, Kate’s at a magical age for Christmas, and of course it’s Ryder’s first Christmas. I want to be all things to each of my kids, and to be honest, I’ve enjoyed our Christmas moments this year. They’ve been magical for me. It’s beautiful to see your child sit on Santa’s lap for the first time and create a moment that will be engrained in my mind forever. I took Kate to see the “Nutcracker” this year, and she was mesmerized by the dancing and spectacular costumes. It’s a memory I have with my mom, and I’m glad Kate and I are creating these moments too.
But here’s where it gets harder. This year I am actually feeling things. I’m making an effort to put myself out there. And when I allow myself to do this, I’m opening up my heart to potential pain.
I had an entire afternoon to myself one day, so I decided to conquer some Christmas shopping for the kids. I was actually looking forward to it. With Starbucks in hand, I walked into the first store to buy them each an outfit. I searched high and low and picked out something special for Kate. Then as I meandered through the store to find the baby section, I was surrounded by garments for toddler boys, and it hit me. Hard. I wasn’t shopping for Jackson today.
My shopping trip went from bearable to terrible in the blink of an eye. I didn’t enjoy the rest of the day.
Then a couple of weeks ago the kids at church performed the annual Christmas program. Kate chose not to participate this year, so I wasn’t too worried about getting emotional watching it. But halfway through, the little three and four-year-olds entered the sanctuary dressed as cows and sheep. They “moo’d” and “baa’d” all the way to the front. I envisioned Jackson standing right up there in front, blond hair gleaming and a big smile smeared all over his face. I looked at Eric and saw him wiping away tears. And I lost it.
This year when I have bad moments, they’re really bad. I miss Jackson with my whole heart. I wish he were here to experience Christmas with his sister and brother.
But, thankfully, this year there are good moments, too. And I’m relishing in those.
I know everyone is in the midst of the craziness that Christmas can bring. I realize that it can be a stressful holiday on many levels. But I think it’s important for each of us to stop. Take a deep breath. Then, take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
Jesus was born on Christmas day. God sent His only Son for us! So that we can live for eternity with Him in Heaven. I want to believe in Jesus the way our children believe in Santa. I want to have faith like a child. I want to have that love for someone I’ve never met, yet believe beyond a doubt that he is oh, so real! His birth gives us hope that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Hope for me that I will see my baby boy again. And hope for all of my newfound friends that they are one day closer to being with their children again.
At Thanksgiving dinner Kate asked if we could all go around and say what we were thankful for. We’ve never done that before, and I enjoyed hearing everyone’s answers. They were the proverbial answers of health, family and freedom. All of which are so true, and I am extremely thankful to have. At the end, in true Kate fashion, she asked, “What do you think Jackson is thankful for?”
I replied, “I think he’s thankful for Jesus.”
I know I am.

“And can it be. That in a world so full and busy, the loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up.”
– Charles Dickens

Jackson’s first Christmas