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Finding Peace at Christmas

People have been checking in with me and Roger a lot lately.  There is the usual banter:
"Are you looking forward to Christmas?" (Um. Sure. I guess.)
"Are you ready for the holidays?" (Yeah. We kind of play it low-key in our house. You know.)
"How are you doing?" (I'm hanging in there.)

Some questions come out of run-of-the-mill small talk. I realize every day how many people I work with or see who don't even know my story. They don't know my truth. And sometimes it's just too difficult to explain.

Other comments come from genuine concern. We have a gentle and supportive circle of friends. It is helpful. I am glad that other people remember. 

I think about it every day. 

I have thought a lot about how much I wanted to push myself during the holidays. Roger and I have had many discussions. 
Do we put up a tree? (the answer this year was no) 
Do we send Christmas cards? (not this year) 
Do we give gifts? (not really) 
Do we go to this party or that celebration? (we pick and choose)
Am I going to church this year on Christmas Eve? (I'm still undecided)

First Advent and first candle is lit I love many things about this time of year. I love the lights. I love (most of) the music. I love the spirit of giving when it's not contaminated by crass commercialism. I love the way the weather changes gradually. The nights get longer. The trees get barer. The weather turns colder. That is the spirit of Advent, the spirit of remembrance and thoughtful meditation that helps my mind process it all.  

Even though I feel better than I have in years, I'm still not ready to celebrate with the masses. Sometimes my choices are easy and sometimes it is an inner struggle. I know I am not alone. We commiserate with families who have lost loved ones. Some losses are recent. Others lost their child or their friend before Charlotte was gone and they still struggle.  It is interesting to see how families cope. Abbie's family is remembering their daughter in a very special way, encouraging Random Acts of Kindness in her name.  I love that.

The grief shifts but it never goes away. The first year after Charlotte died, the ache was there all the time. For me, it was like walking on broken glass. Roger often said it felt like an elephant sitting on his chest. Whether a dull ache or a sharp pain, it was constant. It never seemed to leave. More recently, the waves of pain have evened out a little bit. Now it catches you off guard. It's like that Lego that finds itself in the middle of the floor as you trudge to the bathroom in the dark. It's like banging your shin against the corner of the coffee table. The pain is sharp and it catches you off guard. There's a bruise. It takes a few minutes...or a few days...before you feel ok. It all comes back again.

Today was another one of those days. I think it had been creeping in for a while. My friend Jamie posted a picture of the beach a few days ago. Thanks to a recent cold front, the ocean had that wild, stormy look that I love so much.  

Then Faiqa posted a blog about missing Florida and her memories of home. 

That brought me full circle to this picture: 

I love this picture of Charlotte. This was from our trip in Florida. We were staying at a condo on the beach after our official Make-A-Wish vacation. The day was cool but not cold. The ocean was rough. The beach was almost empty. All day, Charlotte sat in that chair, watching the waves and eating Cheerios. We frequently asked her if she wanted to go anywhere or do anything. She was happy to sit. She was happy to watch. I look back at this picture, knowing that she was less than a month away from death. I wonder what she thought about that day.  I wonder what she knew. She was always a wise child. Wise beyond her years. It's pictures like this that help me realize that regardless of what she really knew about the science of her disease, she was at peace.  

Knowing that, I am both saddened beyond belief and comforted beyond all words. That is where I find my Peace. 


  1. What a beautiful photo of your Charlotte! I am glad you can find peace- in might be in small doses, but it's there. Some days, it might be fleeting. But to know it's there must feel encouraging. Wishing you more peace :)


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