Since the last time I wrote, we've celebrated the three major holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. We also celebrated two birthday's: Julie's and Benjamin's. Julie loved planning for these holidays, and I followed along, happy that she wanted to do the planning. This year it was all in my hands to make sure the holidays were still wonderful. A part of me wanted to hide in a corner and wait for them to pass by. I can understand why the bereaved sometimes do just that. However, I have four children and all of them deserved to have as wonderful a holiday as their mom would have planned for them. So, I resisted that urge to hide away the holidays, and resolved to make them as close to what Julie would have made them as I could. I thank God that she brought my four children into my life.
Let me offer a pearl to those who would read this entry looking for some hope and encouragement. Julie did have a hand in our holidays. At times, I would feel lost or overwhelmed, and I'd call out to her verbally and ask for her help. Frequently at those times, I felt her comfort me, and ideas would come to me that I hadn't thought of before, or reminders of something she once did that I had forgotten. My friends and family, let me tell you that our loved ones on the other side do reach out to us. In a very real sense, Julie still had a part in our holiday plans. She even helped choose some of the gifts. I'll get to that detail soon.
Thanksgiving was wonderful. My family all came to our house since my parents and I share the home. There were moments in the day that I felt Julie's absence, but there were also times that I felt her near. The day after, when things calmed down, I had more time to think about how I had missed her. I didn't spend all day missing her though. Instead, I decided to do something spontaneous as she might have done, and I did something she asked me to do a few years in a row, but I always avoided because I'd rather avoid the cold, and the crowd. We went to see the lights on Temple Square turned on for the first time of this Christmas season. I brought all four of my children, and three children of my two sisters. While there I ran into friends and family I didn't expect to see, and loved every minute of the experience, remembering all the while that this would make Julie very happy, and knowing that she was indeed happy. I felt her happiness that night. We celebrated Thanksgiving with Julie's family the following Sunday, and enjoyed it, even as we all felt Julie's absence keenly.
On December 7th, I went to a Handel's Messiah performance with Hiram and Avalon. I had wanted to take Julie every year but never did, so I made it happen this year, believing she would be there with us. She was. Julie's birthday came next. We made a big deal of it. We had her favorite cake (ice cream cake), sang happy birthday to her, each shared a memory about Julie, and we wrote in our journals. Julie's birthday was a wonderful day for all of us.
Christmas Eve and the day before it were very difficult. I had done some shopping in advance, but not all of it. When I finally did the last of it, I faced the reason why. Julie loved Christmas shopping. While I looked for gifts, I could imagine her happy, beaming face. I felt lost without her there. I felt more sharply her absence. We have a tradition of three main gifts (after the three gifts presented to Christ): one educational, one need, and one want. At one point I started to despair of finding something fitting for the educational gifts. I walked to a part of the store where not as many people were around and whispered aloud, through tears, something like: "Julie, I don't know what to get. I'm lost without you, and I need your help. Help me find something, please." Immediately, I found something for Hiram, right there in front of me. I found all the right gifts within a couple more minutes. They were all things I had not noticed before. This year, Julie still helped pick the gifts!
Christmas Eve night was hard as well. Julie loved wrapping every single gift. She usually didn't want me to help because it would mean one less present she could wrap. Size didn't matter - if she could wrap a box the size of a refrigerator, she'd do it. My parents were there to help and we made it through the night, allowing some grief as we missed Julie's enthusiasm for the gift wrapping, but feeling some excitement as we anticipated the children unwrapping them the next day. Unfortunately, we put off almost every single present until that night so it took quite a while.
We had an amazing Christmas. It went by very quickly as I spent the day focusing on making it all I could for my four children. Again, the day after was much harder. I had more time to reflect, and to remember the day's happiness, but to also reflect on Julie's physical absence. We celebrated Christmas with Julie's family the following Sunday, and it was a little harder because I think more of Julie when I'm around them, but I also felt Julie's spirit more closely that day. In fact, all Sundays since her passing have been more intensely both bitter and sweet. I feel her absence more when I go to church without her. However, I feel her spirit near more frequently, and the spirit of the Sabbath day brings peace and comfort to my soul.
New Years Eve night I let Avalon stay up for the first time. It was Hiram's second time. I missed my midnight New Years kiss from Julie for the first time in years, but got my first New Years kiss (on the cheek) from Avalon. It was a quiet, peaceful night with just my two oldest children and I. Since then, things have returned to normal. I feel myself getting emotionally stronger with passing time, but I will always miss my Julie.