I’ve been talking a lot about the magic of the holiday season this year. I feel it in me, and I see it in my daughter’s eyes. Each night, she opens her Advent present so carefully, so expectantly, so delightfully. It’s precious. I want to bottle these moments.

But, if I was to be really honest, I’d tell you that the past couple of days have been a little tough.

The last week has been filled to the brim with emotions. Our 21-month-old daughter has started to actually walk–taking between six and eight steps at a time. Thursday night, between dinner and bath, she independently took steps from Lloyd to the couch and back. She’s also found a new level of bravery and, to name just two of her newest skills, is climbing the Christmas tree and standing up in the rocking chair, rocking vigorously. I think her daddy might have a heart attack.

With this newfound bravery, she is getting into things that she has never paid attention to in the past. Suddenly, there are so many things we need to move and address, and that overwhelms me. But, we’re ecstatic to see her walking!

Celebrating Patrick’s Christmas Books

After the excitement of her walking Thursday night, we switched gears to celebrate Patrick and hosted the live portion of Patrick’s Christmas Books–our annual collection of books to donate in Patrick’s name–on Facebook. We were overwhelmed by people’s interest and generosity. We can’t wait for all of the books to arrive and deliver them to MGH for Children.

Saturday morning, we had family photos taken. They had been a little fraught with planning. Snow was coming, and we went back and forth about when the right time to take the photos would be. We were running late and frazzled, but the mini session went relatively smoothly.

When we got home, Lloyd and I were on two different tracks. We each had things we wanted to get done while Stitch napped, and we also kept asking each other questions about our own tasks–absolutely driving each other nuts.

But, when Stitch got up from nap, the snow was falling, we put on a Christmas movie for her, and I continued working on my project while she and daddy got some snuggle time.

Then our photographer sent a link to a sneak peek of our photo session, and seeing the teaser of the first image started the tears. They were so beautiful–even more than I could have hoped or imagined. All of our family was represented–Patrick is our little giraffe. We haven’t sent Christmas cards since the first year we were married. This year, we would have a proper photo for a photo card. It would be part of our magic.

But, that joy collides with the grief.

The more we enjoy Stitch, the more we realize what we are missing with Patrick. Yes, there is magic–lots and lots of magic–but it has come at the cost of loss. The season of magic doesn’t change that, can’t change that.

Sunday morning, Lloyd worked on shoveling while I got us ready for church. We’ve been attending a new church, and they announced last week that little ones who wanted to be sheep or angels in the Christmas pageant could stay after church this week for the dress rehearsal. Apparently, I really wanted Stitch to be in the pageant. I don’t think I even really truly understood how important it was to me until I started crying when Lloyd suggested we just get her home for nap.

So, we stayed for rehearsal. And she kept the sheep ears on the whole time, butt-scooting around the church being all kinds of adorable. I was overwhelmed with emotions. I feel like I’ve waited my whole life for my toddler to steal the show at the Christmas pageant–being all kinds of ridiculously cute and unpredictable. My life. I finally have this bit of my life I’ve been waiting for.

Sunday evening, I felt like crap–exhausted, shaky, nauseated. Monday morning, I realized I was anxious and completely drained. I was feeling pulled between joy, grief, and shoulds. I’ve worked so hard to prepare myself for this holiday season. I’ve tried to be fully present with my family. I’ve felt the magic. I wondered, did the magic fail me?

No, life just happened.

You can’t cover grief with a blanket of snow and call it magic.

In some ways, I wonder if being fully present has made me even more vulnerable to the sting of Patrick’s loss. When I’m fully present with my family, it’s fully evident that someone is missing.

But, there are pieces of him evident throughout everything we do. So, I hold that. And I resolve to keep being fully present and trying to be more mindful of the emotional landscape of the holidays season–magic and all.

*Photo courtesy Katie Donovan Photography

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