Sunday, December 25, 2011
Christmas in a Cemetary
The first Christmas after losing a child is everything you might imagine it to be. As soon as I woke up I was hit with the realization that my first-born child Gabriel was not here to celebrate this most special of days with me. I made it through most of Mass but cried near the very end, for no particular reason. Throughout the entire day I couldn't shake the feeling that something - someone - was missing. Of course, it's a feeling I've been living with since the day Gabriel died. It is a feeling that I have felt since I miscarried Baby Cude. In all honesty, it is a feeling I have been carrying since the day, whenever it was, that I realized I was meant to be a mommy and didn't know how long it would be or what I would go through to become a mommy.
The highlight of my day came as a surprise to me. My dad, aunt and I went to the cemetary to visit Gabriel, who I had taken flowers to last Thursday. I felt like a bad mommy on Thursday, knowing that through the month of December other families had already brought their loved ones holiday flowers and decorations. Today I went to the cemetary because I thought it was what I was supposed to do on these big holidays, but the joy of the experience caught me by surprise. In the last three days even more people had brought red and while flowers, small Christmas trees, tinsel, and candy cane decorations. Many people, much more than usual, were there visiting their lost loved ones. I saw a family of two parents and two children sitting around a headstone talking and enjoying the day. All of these people have loved ones who have left this earth, but they are still very much a part of their lives, especially on Christmas day. That feeling that of "Christmas," the kind described in songs and stories, prevailed in the cemetary, and if every year is like this, visiting me precious boy's earthly remains in this beautiful place is something I will gladly do in years to come.
Some have suggested I am stuck in the past, or not moving forward as I should, because I choose to honor Gabriel's memory by talking about him, displaying pictures of him, giving him a Christmas stocking and ornament, and wrapping a gift for his daddy, from Gabriel (and Gideon). I suppose some people think I am in denial, that part of me doesn't recognize that Gabriel is gone. To some degree I suppose they are right, because while I know he has died, a part of him, his spirit, his memory, is all around me. I embrace the idea of always keeping him a part of our lives.
While the surprisingly joyful trip to the cemetary was the best part of my Christmas day, my favorite gift came yesterday, when Ben told me that we could go pick up my new puppy. Gideon's parents had a new litter or puppies in October, and though I had long insisted that I wanted another male dog, when I visited my Aunt Naomi who owns Gideon's parents, I quickly fell in love with one of the female puppies. Aunt Naomi reserved the puppy for me, and had a red felt collar with bells on it and a big red bow ready to dress her in when I picked her up.
I named our new puppy Noelle, and though Gideon will always be my very special boy, Noelle has been a wonderful distraction. Watching Gideon and Noelle play warms my heart. It is a bittersweet experience, as so many things are these days, when I consider that in a different world we would have a six-month old Gabriel or a one-year old Baby Cude to share this experience with us. Still, as I watch Gideon run around the yard, allowing Noelle to chase him and catch up with and jump on him, I think about what a good big brother he was to Gabriel, and what a good big brother he will be to our future children. I look forward to raising Noelle, to caring for her and watching her grow. Noelle and even Gideon could never take the place of my children, but they are loveable and loving reminders that even in a dark world, where babies must sometimes leave their mommies, there is a reason to keep going.
Merry Christmas, my babies.