What a day yesterday was. Obviously, Christmas is a day you look forward to all year long. I never knew how HARD being a parent was until Christmas mattered to Ryan. And now, it is that much more difficult, because ALL Doug and I want is for our little/big family to be happy and feel loved. There is no way to TRULY measure equality when it comes to gifting 5 children of all different ages. But man. I think we came pretty close to making each of them feel as special as they ever will! Overall, yesterday was one for the books (minus baby Shannon being sick. I could have lived without that!). And it was a Christmas I will never forget.
As beautiful as it was, it was also a day of heartache. It is amazing to me how a day that is filled with SO MUCH JOY and happiness can be interrupted by overwhelmingly heard to swallow, hard to breathe, face soaking sadness. Last Christmas we escaped reality in Florida. We didn’t want to be reminded all day that Shannon & David weren’t with us. If we went some place they had never been, we thought we could maybe swerve the pain. And swerve we did. This Christmas, we faced it head on. And I got nailed. I blinked back tears uncountable times. After losing my aunt last week, I have pretty much been a wreck whenever I’m alone. My heart has been bleeding for my cousins who lost their mom, and my uncle who lost his wife. And every time I experience a loss, it boomerangs back around to Shannon. And of course, Zach. 3 angels in 17 months. Doesn’t seem fair. Hasn’t our family been through enough? Or maybe we are just THAT strong. As evidenced by our traditional Christmas Eve gathering, I am sure of one thing: I am undeniably blessed to be part of a truly extraordinary family. And together, we will prevail. Because love ALWAYS wins. (I love you, Kristen!)
Today was our first Christmas at mom and dads since our family’s immediate loss, and it was a truly special morning. But I felt a hole in my heart all morning long. I can still remember my last Christmas with Shannon like it was yesterday. Christmas Eve at Kelly’s gym. Christmas morning bright and early at mom and dads. Her giving me the 1D DVD against her every wish because she knew I really wanted it and gave in because she had to or I wouldn’t get what I wanted. And according to her… I ALWAYS get what I want! Standing around the kitchen, saying our breakfast prayer. I missed her so much yesterday that my body ached. I remembered her gift to mom Christmas 2013. A photo stand that read “Mom likes me best.” I used to swap her photo out for mine. I think Alli’s face made it there, too. But Shan’s picture is officially there to stay. I’ll give her that 😉
Overall our day was beautiful. Later in the day I asked my mom if she was OK. She was. Or maybe she was so busy all day she hadn’t had time to not be. And then I choked. I said how today was just a reminder to me that she is gone, and how… she didn’t want to be. She didn’t want to miss this. I mean. Really. She didn’t ask for this. She didn’t want to miss a SINGLE second of this life. She missed seeing the look on Connor’s face when he picked up his new bat. And hearing Danny scream and jump up and down when he opened his favorite gift: an Instagram account. (It is not lost on me that this was a FREE gift. #damn – oh! Follow him and help me keep him in line: @dannyrudy51). Yet, it wasn’t up to her. And I have accepted that. I truly believe that it was simply her time. But dammit. It doesn’t make it easier. And then I think about how much my life has been enriched since she’s left us. I feel a sense of guilt because I have found happiness at her “expense”. At some point on this journey I saw a light at the end of our dark tunnel. And I decided I not only wanted to head in the direction of the light, but I wanted to be to be a light for others. I do not wan to waste my life. And I have her to thank for it. I have her to thank for the time I have gained with my mom and my dad. And Janet and my dear high school friends. I have her to thank for getting to see my other nephews and niece on a very regular basis. I have her to thank for bringing Doug and I closer. I have her to thank for giving me the number of children I am most certain I would not have otherwise had, but wanted 🙂 I have her to thank for teaching me to look at the glass half full, and that a smile is the prettiest thing a girl can wear. I have her to thank for everything. But man I miss her. I will miss her every single day forever. But that’s ok. Because I know that grief is the price of LOVE. And I am willing to pay the price because I can’t imagine ever not loving my sister with ALL of my heart.
The boys did great yesterday. Better than great. I couldn’t believe it. At breakfast when we were at my parents Danny said to Doug, “Pops. Is it hard for you to be the only one here without parents?” Janet and I caught each others eyes. What? What did he just say? Did he just ask my 32 year old husband if it is hard for him to be without his living parents who only live a car ride away and we are blessed to see frequently? If that wasn’t the Grace of God. Well, I just don’t know.
Connor got me some beautiful jewelry (see my little “diamond” studs?!) And Danny got me this adorable family frame. They were both scrambling under the tree first thing to find the gifts they picked out for all of us. As “Oh” from the movie HOME would say, it made me sad mad. I will always be sad mad because I miss Shannon and I hate that she is missing all of this. But what else rhymes with sad and mad? Glad. Which I am. So sad mad glad I shall be. I have said this before and I have said it pretty much my whole life. Shannon helped raise me. And now, raising Connor & Danny is my way of thanking her. I consider myself very very lucky. Losing Shan has redefined me. It’s made me better. A piece of me is missing, but I have gained so much in return.
My favorite gift of all this Christmas aside from getting a new phone so Connor could have mine (happiest boy in the WORLD) was this mug Doug had made for me. Yes that is coffee dripping down the side because Maddie just came plummeting through with her new Target shopping cart. Love One Another we shall. Love and family is everything. Thanks for joining us on our journey to always have our glass half full. We love you all! MERRY CHRISTMAS! I would also like to add that Danny just came in to find me sobbing while writing this and he asked me what was wrong. I said I just missed mommy and he came leaping over to wrap his arms around me. He glanced at my computer and said “So do you write about it? When you miss her?” And I told him, “Not all the time. Sometimes though.” And he shut my laptop and said, “I think you need another hug.”
Ok, Danny. Ok. ❤
PS. I love you, Dougie! Even though you won’t read this! THANK YOU for simply being you. You are my greatest gift.