Recently there was a post on one of the Widow/Widower Facebook groups I belong to about Christmas cards. The person was asking if anyone else despised receiving “happy family” cards this time of year when his/her family wasn’t happy due to the loss of a parent. I read and reread the post and I’ve thought a lot about that topic lately. Here is what I know for sure.
This IS my family now, the three of us, a mom and 2 crazy kids. It is not the family situation I thought I was signing up for- not even a little bit-but it is the one God has blessed me with and I’m proud of us.
Last fall (2016) at the urging of my teenager, the three of us took family pictures. We were 2.5 months out from the loss of Patrick and to say it was hard would be a MASSIVE understatement. However, we took those pictures and they were beautiful (thank you Sarah). The beauty in the photos had zero to do with how we looked and everything to do with what the pictures represented. They represented the reset of our family. The beginning of us as a unit of 3. The initiation of single parenthood and all it brings to the table. (You single or former single parents are giving an Amen right now…I hear you).
I have my favorite picture from that photo session blown up in black and white above our mantel and I look at it daily. In it, I see a little boy who is 3 and has his fingers laced through mine. He is still too little to truly understand the depth and breadth of what happened to him. However, he knows his Mommy and sister love him fiercely and would do anything possible to love him through his pain. This boy will become so funny and learn so many new things in his upcoming year. He will lighten and brighten the days of his mother and sister. He will remind them to not get too bogged down in life’s messes.
I see my amazing daughter in that photograph. She will take the loss of her Daddy and model grace and strength that will amaze me. This girl will use dance to channel her grief and will test her mother while at the same time sharing the responsibility that will come her way due to the enormous shift in her life. A girl who will push through a tough schedule with amazing grades and a wicked sense of humor. A girl who is moving through the difficult stages of becoming a woman yet will lead her mother to more than a few late night belly laughs.
I look into the eyes of that broken 39 year old woman. Her face is smiling but her eyes are still so sad. She is wearing a bracelet- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” She has done all those things (many of them not well but they happened) and a few things she never dreamed she’d do. This broken woman in that picture will fall apart and put herself back together so many times in the upcoming year that some people won’t recognize the person she will become. She will change and grow and evolve.
Those three people in the photograph hanging over my mantle are my family now. I sent them out on Christmas cards last year and this Christmas I sent cards with pictures of the three of us from our summer Disney Cruise. You know why? Because I’m proud of us- proud of of our messes, melodramas, mayhem and missteps. I’m proud of the laughter, love and lessons. I’m proud of the miles driven, meals eaten, events planned and new traditions we’ve made.
I responded to that post on my Facebook group very simply. “I choose to smile at all the cards I receive because someone cared enough to send them. I too sent cards both years post loss because this IS my family and I’m darn proud of us. We are pretty amazing.”
~I dedicate this post to my blessings- Morgan and Parker. May God continue to bless our family and wrap his loving arms around you as you grow. ~