Last night, as we discussed how I could help with Christmas planning, my aunt said to me that she had a moment of clarity and emotion because "it is real". She couldn't have been more right. During the holidays, you can't hide from grief. You can't hide from tears. You can't hide from the flood of memories of holidays past. You can't hide from what is real.
The holidays are real.
re·al, real /ˈrē(ə)l/, /rāˈäl/
Actually existing as a think or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.
I worry about my family as we move through this season of firsts. That worry is my reality.
My sweet aunt is facing, just as she did at Thanksgiving, her first Christmas without any of her four brothers beside her. She will have her children and grandchildren around her, but her Christmas planning has always included my dad and she will miss his calming presence. That is real.
My beautiful grandmother is facing a Christmas without her son. A child who spent 65 Christmas Eves with his mom. How many moms can boast that they never missed Christmas with their son? This loss has aged her and I fear it may be our last with her. That is real.
My cousins, one newly married and the other with young babies, is facing a Christmas balanced with sadness and joy. They will miss an uncles booming voice, will help wipe away our tears, yet cherish new traditions with their own families. That is real.
My brother is facing a Christmas 3000 miles away in Florida. True, he is surrounded by the love of his wife's family, and he has the joy of a first Christmas with his child. My brother has proven himself to the be the strongest of the three of us. His reality will involve several phone calls to us over the span of two days. There will be tears but with my brother, there will also be so much laughter. He is so much like our father. That is real.
My sister is facing a Christmas, in a new home that is ready for her and her family to create new memories. She has done as Dad would have and overcompensated the grief by buying too many gifts. Like Dad, she buys because she needs and embraces the joy she will bring when faces light up on Christmas morning. She is so much like our father. That is real.
My husband and son are facing a Christmas with a totally unpredictable Michelle. I am blessed. Their love is real.
And my mom. Oh, how I ache for her. She has experienced loss before and has proven to be the strongest one of us, time and time again. She moves through the days but you can see the pain in her eyes. She tries to hide it and put on a brave face, but for those who know her best, we can see it. The holidays are going to be the most difficult for her but we will hover and surround her with our love. And a cocktail or two. That is real.
I dread the thought of the holidays without Dad.
That is real.