‘Spilling over’ is bound to happen.
The Christmas season has arrived, and with it all the emotions entangled therein.
I have always loved Christmas. Since I was a small child and watched my mother carefully trim the fresh tree that my father had cut the day before. Christmas is a time of wonderful smells, sights, sounds, and what I’ve always felt was nothing less than magic.
As I grew up and older, Christmases remained magical. From delicious baking projects to the tradition of obtaining one very special ornament each year; from the trinkets found in stockings to the surprise gift that would bring shrieks of joy, Christmas has always been a favorite time of year for me.
When I lost my daughter more than two years ago, everything changed. It felt as if all joy had suddenly been erased from the world. Christmas was exceedingly painful. I marvel now how I made it through that first year; thankfully I had enormous family, work, and community support.
This is now the third Christmas without my eldest daughter (who would be 21). Much has happened to me since her death, internally and externally. Probably the most significant addition to my life – “my little lifesaver” – is my daughter Tina, who joined me a little more than a year ago. My Christmases are once again blessed with a child in the house.
And what a blessing she is. A blossoming 10-year-old, my little girl is a shining example of what joy can do. A child from an extremely abusive background, little Tina’s heart has never lost its joy and abounding good nature, regardless of the trauma she has endured. Understandably, she struggles with some things – lessons that were never taught, simple things like riding a bike, raising her hand, speaking quietly – but her smile is her most common expression. She even wakes up smiling.
Joy – something that I thought had left my heart altogether – is written all over the face of this bright-eyed optimistic little girl who now calls me “Mommy.” And slowly, steadily, she’s finding a way to put back the sparkle that’s been missing in my own eyes.
As we decorated the Christmas tree, my emotions began to pile up. And what a range of feelings they encompassed: pleasure in the work, sorrow in who’s missing; delight in one daughter’s company, despair in another daughter’s absence; mixed pleasure and pain in recalling each ornament’s special history. Naturally for me, the tears eventually came.
“Are you sad, Mommy?” asked Tina.
“Yes, honey, I’m afraid I am.”
“Don’t be sad,” she said as she wrapped her arms around me. “I love you.”
Oh boy…. from the mouths of babes.
For the past 15 months I have watched – and helped – this young lady explore her new world. She has, in that time, achieved honor roll, begun karate and climbed two levels, discovered she enjoys playing piano, and truly found her way into my heart as only a daughter could.
In that same time, my grief and I have achieved an uneasy truce. I guess, as George Elliot so gracefully said it, I have stopped wrestling with it and come to accept it as a life-long companion. I have also accepted something even more profound: there is new joy in my heart.
I like to think I have a reasonable grasp on the English language; however, I believe there are no words for the mixture of emotions that all this brings. Tears still come often, but as I explained to Tina:
“It’s ok honey; Mom’s just spilling over a little.”
We are looking forward to a wonderful – magical – Christmas season, and wish the same for everyone. And if you see me “spilling over,” not to worry….