From my journal dated December 11, 2002:
On Sunday, Joe and I took Brandy [the dog] for a walk on the Woodinville Slough Trail. We were so sad and needed to get some fresh air. I think the Christmas season is affecting us so much more than we ever thought.
After our walk, we stopped and purchased a Christmas tree from the lot at Mary Sutton’s church. Came home, put it up, and started decorating it. Joe put on the lights, as he’s always done. But he just couldn’t handle doing any more than that. Eric and Jenna weren’t home, either, so I had to do the rest all by myself. It was so hard.
Debra* had asked Eric to fix a guitar for her daughter’s birthday. She came up to our house that afternoon to pick it up. We have known Debra and her family for many years; we considered them our extended family – family by choice instead of birth. We chose to make them our family. I feel like Jason’s death changed all that.
There I sat in the middle of the family room floor, surrounded by boxes, tissue paper, and ornaments waiting to be hung on the tree. I was such a mess. I was just drowning. I felt stuck, unable to do anything else. I would have given nearly anything to have someone help me. I guess I just had a hope in my heart that Debra would take time to sit down and help me. I would have loved some help right then. It would have made such a difference.
But she couldn’t do it…wouldn’t do it. I don’t know which. She probably had some place else she was headed. It was like she couldn’t wait to get the guitar from Eric and get out of our house. She barely even talked to me.
We always went as a family to pick out our Christmas tree, and then we would put on Christmas music and start to decorate the house and tree. Joe always put on the lights first. Then I would unwrap the ornaments, and each person would put his or her special ornaments on the tree. Sometimes a story starting with “I remember when…” would accompany the ornament. Jason always put the angel on the top as soon as he got tall enough to reach.
We loved our Christmas traditions: Going to look at Christmas lights and rating them by “stars”; Chinese food on Christmas Eve; Christmas Eve candlelight service; freshly-made cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning; Joe reading the Christmas story to us; taking turns opening presents; Christmas dinner filled with goof food, family, laughter. Now what do we do?
Nothing is the same. Traditions now emphasize Jason’s absence. How can we just go through the same traditions this year? What are we supposed to do instead? I can’t just throw them all away. We can’t just do nothing. That seems wrong, too.
It took me a long time to decorate the tree. I absolutely fell apart when I pulled Jason’s stocking out of the box. How can he be gone??!!?? It’s just not right!! It’s all so very wrong!! This hurts!!! My heart hurts!! How do we celebrate Christmas without our boy??
© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney