At the start of the holiday season, I just wanted to go to bed and sleep until January 2. I didn’t know how we would get through the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years Day. We had contemplated going away for the holiday week, running away from the pain. But we knew the sadness would be with us no matter where we were. We couldn’t run away.
Julia loved the holidays. Soon after her birthday, she would start celebrating. She was the one who sang the carols, who stood beside me while I made pizzelles so she could eat the first one. Julia was the star angel at the Christmas pageant. She was the one who made sure the tree was perfect and placed the star on the top.
We stayed at home this year, but there would be no caroling, no cookies made, no Christmas pageant. We bought some boxed cookies from Trader Joes and went to midnight mass. Our tree was a small tabletop blue spruce we decorated with a tiny wooden zebra painted angel. We will plant the tree in spring when it doesn’t feel as cold.
Julia loved the holidays. Without a doubt, her favorite part was giving presents. Julia would always start early, planning what gifts she would give to everyone. Julia couldn’t wait to watch as someone opened a present she gave them, waiting in anticipation for the smile to come across their face, knowing she had selected the perfect gift. Julia didn’t need to receive a thing; she received so much joy from just giving.
This year was no different. During the summer when Julia got sick, she met weekly with an art therapist from CHOP. Julia and Jen would sit at the kitchen table and Julia would paint or sculpt. As each piece of art work dried, Julia would place it in the box.
When August came, Julia wanted to look though the box with me. She had to show me each piece. That is when the planning started.
“Mommy, these are my Christmas gifts for everyone”, Julia said proudly. “Do you think they will like them?”
“I think they will love them, Julia”.
“Really Mom? I made them with love so it must really show.”
So a few days before Christmas, John and I took out the box full of Julia’s love. We carefully wrapped each present. Over the past few weeks, we have given Julia’s presents to her brothers, to her sister-in-law, to her Pop Pop, to her cousins, to her aunts and to her uncles. We have watched in anticipation for the smile, even though bittersweet, to come across their faces, knowing that Julia had made the perfect gift.
Giving each gift reminded us of the significance of the season; the importance of family and friends, the joy of giving not receiving, the celebration of love and goodwill. Julia once again gave us the greatest present.
So last night brought the end to 2013 and the beginning of a new year; a year we have resolved to continue to share Julia’s gifts and grace, to remember all her perfect gifts.