I lay awake tonight. It really isn't night....it is Christmas morning. I am so aware of family this year, more than ever. I think about cherished memories. I think about loss.
One year ago today I sat in the darkness beside Patrick's bed. My sister had gone to get a couple hours of sleep. I was on duty from midnight to 3am. It was that night, while by his bedside, that I wrote my last blog entry about Patrick while he was alive. It would be 10pm on the 26th when he would take his final breath.
And so, it is our first Christmas without him. As it was our first Thanksgiving without him. It was the first year I've watched Notre Dame football without calling him or texting him during every game. Our family typically celebrates "Thanksmas" with the McGoldrick's--and so about a month ago we all made it through a holiday that was a little quieter, a little less jovial, a bit less Patrick-like than in previous years.
On my mind this year, more than ever, are the many people who are experiencing a Christmas different than they did in previous years.
I think of my dear friend who, a year ago, had a fairly "normal" Christmas. This year, she's been through chemo and will be getting a dose of radiation on Christmas day. That wasn't part of the plan.
I think of my friend Pam, who was very much alive last December, although fighting for her life. She lost that battle in the spring, and Tom is spending his first Christmas without his best friend and wife.
I think of Gene and Mary who lost their 28-year old daughter on Christmas Eve not so many years ago. The pain is still ever-present for them.
I think of Becky, who lost her son Sean this year. I think of Mark and Sheila, and all the Beeson's and Hunter's who lost Isaac earlier this month. I think of another friend who lost a baby last month. I think of the family of Staff Sgt. Jesse Wiliams whose body was flown home this week from Afghanistan.
Christmas is such a wonderful holiday because of everything it means for families and memories and traditions. But it is also a very difficult holiday for many. Why? Because of family and memories and traditions. There may be one less person at the table. The place she always sat when opening presents? Her place is empty. Grandpa used to have so much energy, and now he's in a wheelchair. Mom used to be with us on Christmas day--now she's celebrating with her other family.
Whatever your loss, I know it's devastating. You are the ones on my mind tonight. Your grief cannot be understated. It cannot be hurried. It cannot be carried by someone else. I do know and believe that God is with you in your sorrow, but I also know that sometimes He seems so far away.
You may not feel it, but you are loved. And you matter. So to you, I wish you a Merry Christmas.
For all of us, let me end with the words I wrote a year ago today, sitting beside Patrick's bedside, listening to his struggling breaths. Whoever is in your life this Christmas, pay attention to this advice:
...Cherish every day, enjoy every moment. Hug those you love a bit tighter. Don't wait any more years to plan that family gathering, plan it now. Write a note to someone you love and tell them why they mean so much to you. Don't assume you'll have time to tell them later. Later is now. Forget that job promotion or trip or once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will take you to the next level but away from your family.