Monday, December 29, 2014

Our First Noel(le)

It's been three years since a stinky, 8 week old German Shepherd puppy came home to live with me.  When I picked her out of the litter a month before, I didn't think I would actually get to keep her.  I was surprised when, on Christmas Eve 2011, Ben said to me, "Come on.  Let's go pick up your puppy."  I named her Noelle Marie.  She was my little Christmas pup, the brightest part of a year marked by a deep, deep grief that came with Gabriel's diagnosis and death.

Turned out Noelle would have the responsibility of sustaining me through the dark, empty period that followed.  Ben packed up and moved out three months later.  The dream that our marriage would survive the worst was shattered, and so was the dream of another baby in the bleak near future.

Fastforword three years to Christmas 2014, and a morning spent with my beloved husband Marcos, watching our little girl open her Christmas gifts.  I can still see her, in her black sleeper with silver polka dots and red accents, with little interest in the packages around her.  Her primary focus these days is learning to crawl.  Although I see her every day, touch her soft hair, hold her tiny hands, kiss her sweet face, I still struggle sometimes to believe she is real.  She is just so unbelievable.  She is just so incredible.

Throughout Christmas day I caught myself noticing the empty spaces. On December 19th I quietly acknowledged what would have been Baby Cude's 4th birthday.  On Christmas Day I had to visit my son's ashes in a cemetary.  I wondered what Christmas would be like with a 4 year old Baby Cude, or a 3 year old Gabriel.  I know that the Christmas Day when I do not wonder about my missing children is a long way away.  I know that my beautiful girl, who sits at the top of the growth charts, can never be big enough to fill the empty spaces. It's not her job.  It was never Noelle's job.  It was an unfair responsibility that I placed on a puppy's shoulders, and I have to remind myself not to do the same to my daughter.

As I sat beside my husband, our daughter perched on his lap in her pretty holiday dress and my parents and siblings seated behind us at Mass on Christmas morning, I could feel the difference in this Christmas.  I could feel the lightness in my family's hearts.  I could see the glow that Eden has lit within us all.  I could tell that the clouds had parted from all of us and that the storm we had braved together had subsided.  Eden has colored our world with renewed joy and hope. Christmas will never be the same.

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