Let me start with a funny anecdote about Shannon…So the song, Christmas Shoes…It’s the worst. Can we just all agree on that? Let me post a link to a comedy routine by Patton Oswalt (who I loved as a comedian before, and feel even more of a kinship with as he became a widow in the last year as well and took on the “Superdad” role to his child) about that damn song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq10bz3PxyY (Warning, pretty sure it is not edited, so Explicit Language and NSFW). But yeah, Shannon hated it too. I mean, yeah, it’s a sad song and you want to turn it off because of that at Christmas time, but even more it’s just SO damn cheesy. So Shannon would warble along with it when it came on the radio, and it always got a laugh out of us.
And then we had to live the damn thing.
Losing a spouse, a parent, a child is hard enough. Losing them around a holiday is especially hard. I can’t really think of a tougher holiday to lose someone at than Christmas though. Maybe losing someone right before their birthday, as then each birthday is marred by also recalling their final hours. But really, Christmas seems to be the toughest holiday to get through without someone. Lots of family get-togethers, lots of missed memories, lots of love and happiness, which is twisted into sadness of watching other families get to spend the holiday complete, while our family is not. And probably toughest of all, we have to do so with two kids at such a young age that this is still the prime of the age of “Christmas Magic”, where this is supposed to be such an exciting and joyous time of year, but there is always that pall that hangs above our heads, reliving the final days of Shannon’s life in the midst of Christmas celebrations.
Last year at Christmastime, maybe I was more caught up in the motions of handling the first Christmas by myself, but I didn’t reflect much on the build up to Christmas and translate it back to our lives a year before. I spent a lot of time trying to re-create traditions for the kids, trying to make sure to get in as much family time as I could, trying to inundate my kids with love and activities to try to distance them from the emotions of thinking back to what happened a year ago. But this year, I seem to be caught up a bit on thinking about the series of events that marred the end of our 2014 year. About Christmas Eve spent not preparing last minute gifts and getting the kids into the spirit, but instead rushing to a hospital and passing the kids off to family to be watched. About Christmas morning, keeping Shannon’s gift and stocking intact, and recording a video of the kids wishing her a Merry Christmas and We’ll See You Soon!, thinking still that she would be back with us any day now. Then of missed memories in the days after Christmas, when the kids’ excitement over new toys and gifts were tempered by arranging hospital stays and them going again to other family members. Probably the one that haunts me the most, beside the Christmas morning video which I think I still have somewhere, is that they never saw Shannon again…I didn’t bring them to the hospital while she was in a coma, to avoid that image, and when she passed they were hours away with family, and so I made the decision to not have them see her body hours after she had passed.
At the time, those decisions felt right. Even now, I can see the benefits of why I chose to do that. But, the truth/fact still stands…my children never got a goodbye moment with their mother. No, they wouldn’t have gotten a true interaction, but they never got the closure of seeing her one final time. I have to tell you, I have nightmares that when the kids get to their teenage years, they’re going to hate me over that. They’re going to resent the decision I made. They’re going to say things to me out of anger and pain that are probably going to be tough for me to hear and not react (Got my first dose of that from a 5 year old, mad that I told her that she couldn’t be part of the birthday party from the last blog post, when she said I was “not a good Dad”…and before people react to that…she’s 5, I get it, I brushed it off…but it still SUCKED to hear that, and took a lot of careful thinking before I could respond without myself resorting to a 5 year old level). Maybe I’m overthinking it, but it really does worry me.
So, getting back to Christmas Shoes…so, we lived it, in a way. We had Mommy, in her final moments, on Christmas Eve, away from the family, and struggling with what to do. Did we expect that we would lose her? No. Was Noah asking to go out and buy some shoes for Shannon to wear? No, because that would just be pointless and cheesy and (Nevermind, going to stop the rant there). But all the same, my kids had to go through that Christmas without knowing what would happen. They had hope, but I know they had fear as well. And then the pain of losing her just days after the magical time of year for a kid. The remarkable thing to me is that, last year and this year, they are still feeling the magic of this time of year. They aren’t marred in grief and anxiety, they aren’t dreading the times ahead. They are celebrating family and memories and love. Now, I try my best to continue traditions and continue to include Shannon as part of our holiday traditions. 2 years in a row now, I’ve still put out her stocking. And on Christmas Eve, it will be filled with socks, candy, games, and fun stuff she loved to share with the kids. That will continue to be her little gift back to them.
So, maybe my hope is that, while they do still honor her memories and hold their love for her in their hearts, that my kids aren’t going through the same sadness I get at this time of year, because instead of thinking about the particular day, and instead of looking at Timehop or Facebook On This Day and realizing what I was doing in the days before everything hit bottom…maybe they are just living her spirit in the here and the now. And maybe Christmas night isn’t a reflection on where they were before, but where they are going in the future. That would be a great thing to hold onto at Christmas, a great way to honor Shannon and live her spirit, without marking specific days with sadness and grief. And maybe it’s a lesson I can try to live a bit better each year, to focus more on where we are going, and less on how we got there.
Speaking of socks…I want to float something here…at least the idea of something, and see if anyone feels like it’d be a great way to keep Shannon’s memory and energy alive. So, among the more dreadful and sucky parts of widowhood is cleaning up. No, I don’t mean keeping the house clean (that gets to be it’s own animal with two kids who complain every one time a month I ask them to clean up their own rooms). I mean pairing down the stuff for two into just your stuff. So, one thing I put off doing anything about was Shannon’s socks. I’m not kidding when I tell you, she had enough socks to fill a large Rubbermaid bin. That girl LOVED fun socks. Christmas, Halloween, fuzzy, toed, Moose…whatever. She went sock crazy. So, when I was going through that large bin of socks, my first goal was to make pairs. But as I did that, I started sorting two piles…plain socks and special socks. I ended up with probably about 30-40 pairs of socks that I don’t just want to get rid of. And while I did repurpose a few to the kids, their feet aren’t anywhere close to big enough to fit them. So, let me just leave you with a question for now…would it be weird or kind’ve grody to pass along second hand socks to someone? Thoughts? Obviously, they have been washed (I’m not a savage).