I arrived at the mall to get a few items. I have a clear direction – one stop, one store. As I make the way to the crowd, I look around, families walking together, laughter, holiday glee. The music plays in the background, your typical loop of holiday songs, and I begin to hum along. I surprised myself a little, beginning to feel a bit of that holiday spirit. Mariah begins to sing –
“I don't want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree….”
I begin to sing along, trying to remember the words and then they come to me … “Make my wish come true, oh…All I want for Christmas is You”.
I stop dead in tracks. The song takes on a whole new meaning and I stand there paralyzed.
Friday morning, a simple trip to the mall, a Christmas song and I am left in pieces. I didn’t see it coming. I thought I was past all this, after all it is our fifth Christmas without Julia. But once again I am reminded that this grief never ends.
I instinctually grab for the locket I wear around my neck. The locket I had made after Julia left us – a heart shaped locket with a star etched on it that holds a piece of Julia’s hair and her photo. I hold the locket in my hand, a little habit I have developed these past five years. It centers me and calms my thoughts.
I think back to why I chose the shape of this locket. It’s not what you may think. A heart is a symbol of love, but there is another reason why I chose this shape. It stems from a conversation I had with Julia; one of our many talks as she laid in bed at the end of the day. She worried that one day we wouldn’t be together. I told her that no matter how far apart we were, we would always be in each other’s hearts. Julia seemed satisfied with the answer, but added that she would rather have a way she could get a hug too.
So, now I hold the locket in my closed hand. I guess it is my way of getting a hug from my little girl.
As I drive home, I wonder as I have for the last five years, how I will get through another holiday season. I am consumed by my sadness. The tears begin to well in my eyes and as if on cue, an advertisement comes on the radio for the current show playing at the Walnut Street Theatre. Annie is in town. The song “Tomorrow” plays in the background as the announcer plugs the show, and somehow, I know this isn’t a coincidence. A little reminder from my Stargirl.
I hold my little silver heart in my hand. I feel the star etched on the outside, remembering how Julia will always be my guiding light, showing me the way, reminding me how to live. I know I will manage to get through the holidays– sometimes with tears, sometimes with laughter, but always with my memories.
This last week I have spent time recalling holidays past, but more importantly, there has been time spent thinking of the future.
So today is January 1st, New Year’s Day, and with it comes the plans and promises for the new year. For me, it comes with a resolution to live my life more like Julia did - with generosity, with gratitude, and of course, with happiness.
I will find a way to be kind and generous every day. Of course, I will continue with my dedication to Julia’s Grace Foundation and helping other families. But it will also come by paying it forward in small ways, all in Julia’s name. Perhaps it will be by purchasing a cup of coffee for a stranger or providing a teacher with much needed school supplies, maybe it will be as simple as slowing down and holding the door for a stranger or saying hello as I pass someone on the street. Simple things to make the world a better place, just as Julia did.
Gratitude is more of a struggle and I will need to dig deeper to keep this resolution. I have lived through the greatest pain a parent can experience, so how can I feel grateful? But in some crazy way, I can. I am thankful for all the people who have become a part of my life - all because of Julia. Some people knew Julia and others were only touched by her story. I am grateful for each of them. Although my heart has been broken, there are so many people that have helped to mend it. So, each morning of this new year, I will give thanks for a different person in my life.
And then there is happiness. Happiness naturally flows from my first two resolutions. But, at times, it can be the more elusive. So, when happiness doesn’t seem possible, I will need to remember to share kindness, to reach out to one of the many wonderful people that are part of my life, and if all else fails, to hold the locket around my neck in the palm of my hand and do something from Julia’s list.
#7 Think About What You Are Going to Do In The Future
Happy New Year!