In December 2010, my kids were 12 and 8. Like all kids they were so excited about Christmas. They’d been working on their Christmas lists since the day after Christmas the year before.
But that Christmas we all had one thing we all wanted. Patrick had been going through all the testing to be listed for a transplant. For over a year. He was getting sicker, and faster than many people realized.
Our prayers were granted on December 3, 2010 when we got the phone call that his case had been presented to the transplant committee, and ACCEPTED! He was officially listed for a new heart.
Like every other Christmas, the kids couldn’t wait to decorate with their dad. The lights outside. The tree. Going through the ornaments one by one. The memories of the ornaments I had when I was little, and the ornaments that Patrick had from his childhood.
Every year I let my kids pick out a new ornament. Ornaments they knew would one day go to their new homes when they moved out.
This was what made Christmas. Watching my kids excitement. And watching them do something normal with their dad. No worrying about Patrick not being able to breathe. No worrying about whether or not it was making him dizzy. Just normal family things. Like every other family that celebrates Christmas. For that one day we were normal, happy, and not thinking about what was to come.
In December 2011, our family wish list only had 1 thing on it. A new heart for Patrick. We had been waiting for that call for a year and nothing. We knew we had a wait because of Patrick’s blood type and size, but we were always hopeful that we would get lucky and it would come much sooner than everyone anticipated.
Even waiting for that call we were able to be a normal family decorating for Christmas. Only this year, the discussion of what we would do when Patrick had his new heart, was healthy, and could do more. Places we wanted to visit. Things we wanted to do. My kids wanted to be able to kick a ball around with their dad. They wanted to be able to play tag. Do normal father and kid things.
I wanted to be able to go a day without having to check for those blue lips. Having to call his boss and ask how his day at work was because he wasn’t always truthful with me. A life without blood pressures, heart rates, checking several times during the night to make sure he was still breathing.
Decorating the tree made everything normal again. A couple of hours where we could get away from our lives and pretend to be normal. Ornaments. Christmas lights. The Christmas train. Even tinsel.
In 2012 our lives changed forever. On March 5 we got that phone call we had been waiting 15 months for. They had a new heart. A new beginning. Sadly after only 35 days with a new heart, Patrick passed away on April 10th.
Everything changed. All the wishes and dreams we had came crashing down. Nothing was every going to be normal for us again.
Christmas 2012 was too hard. No decorating. No lights. No ornaments. No talk of Christmas. My kids didn’t have their Christmas lists. What was the point. The only thing any of us wanted was Patrick back.
Thankfully we were able to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with friends, but it wasn’t the same. There was a big hole in everything we did.
I had hoped Christmas 2013 would be different. We were past all the firsts without Patrick. We had settled into a “new normal.”
Unfortunately as Christmas approached, the kids made comments about not wanting to decorate the house. They didn’t want to do it without their dad. Instead they wanted to get a small tree and take it to the cemetery. They wanted to decorate it there.
So we did.
In August 2014 we moved from California to South Carolina. New start, new traditions. Right? Only my kids didn’t want to decorate for Christmas. Instead they wanted to find ways to remember their dad. His favorite movies. His favorite foods. So our new traditions are tacos and enchiladas on Christmas Eve along with watching Men In Black, Bad Boys, and S.W.A.T.
Some people think we are weird. And I’ve been told I’m a horrible mom because I don’t force my kids to decorate for Christmas, or that I don’t just be the parent and decorate. There’s more to life, and more to the holidays than whether or not we have a Christmas tree.
Not everyone likes the holidays. Especially when there’s a big hole where loved ones should be. Decorating the Christmas tree was something my kids did with their dad, and even though this is the 5th Christmas without him, they aren’t ready to decorate without him.
And you know what. It’s ok. Its not the end of the world, and its what works for my family.