But Christmas has changed for me. As a child, it was always our favorite time of the year. Lights outside, multiple trees and garlands inside, holiday music always and signs of Christmas were just everywhere. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we always hosted a house full of people and laughter and gifts galore. Family, neighbors, friends, even the mailman would stop in for a hot cocoa. It was something out of a Hallmark movie and it was truly magical.
I can recall putting on our holiday best and heading out as a family to celebrate Christmas Eve mass even when the wind chills were 20 below and the snow would crunch beneath my high heels. Then we would watch It's A Wonderful Life and finish wrapping and cooking for Christmas Day.
But then life got in the way. At 31, I was diagnosed with my first cancer and a few months later, my Dad died very suddenly at a New Year's party. My parents were SO in love that when I lost my Dad, my Mom's shining spirit was never as bright, now dimmed by grief and heartbreak. Three years later, my older brother passed away and then the following week, my beautiful Mom was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. She lost her most courageous battle the following November close to Thanksgiving. So my magical holiday world was forever changed as my parents' deaths now bookend the most wonderful time of the year. Then one year later, I was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer. And my last round of chemotherapy was the week before Christmas. I remember, on Christmas Eve, sitting on the kitchen floor at my boyfriend's house, crying, bald and sick with mouth sores so awful the only thing I could stand to eat was frozen watermelon. How quickly my wonderful life had changed. But I stopped crying, and laid on the couch in a room a glow by the Christmas tree and hope was restored. And now here, six Decembers later, I am here to write this post. My miracle.
My crazy love life could be a Lifetime Movie so as of right now, I am not married (YET) and treatments for both breast and ovarian cancer has robbed me of my ability to have children or even adopt. So here I am. Just me. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of special people in my life whom I love very dearly along with two older sisters I cherish. But Christmas is hard knowing I will never have my own children. I always envisioned myself being THAT Mom - with five Pottery Barn stockings hanging on the fireplace and making snowman pancakes on Christmas morning.
Alas, it isn't meant to be - it isn't in God's plan. But it still makes me very, very sad.
But I LOVE Christmas. It is not what is used to be and it never will be that way again but it still means SO much. I get excited for Christmas on November 1st as I take down the Halloween decorations. I love the lights, the music, the incessant Hallmark Christmas movies. I love the sound of sleigh bells, Church bells and the smell of Christmas cookies. I still cry when they play Silent Night at mass on Christmas Eve and I still smile when I put the ornaments on the tree - some of the same ones from when I was a child. I still dance around the kitchen when Mariah Carey's carols come on the radio and I still make snow angels in the yard. No matter how broken your heart may be, no matter if you have financial problems, family troubles, health challenges marital problems, unemployment or whatever, no matter what - you must always have hope, faith and trust. And if your life is wonderful and you have no adversities, be thankful for God's gifts and the peace and love that graces your home. For if we have learned nothing from this Christmas season, we should at least know that our lives can change in an instance through no fault of our own. I pray for those parents who have lost their children this month.
My parents gave me the most wonderful gift when they taught me to enjoy the "wonder" that is not only Christmas but in life and love throughout the year. To love and to be loved it the greatest gift.
My inner child really never goes away and it allows me to find the magic in every single day. Be it a robin in my birdbath, the first tulips pushing through the snow in the Spring, finding the perfect paint color, or laughing so hard your stomach hurts. It allows me to be silly and truly have fun everyday. I still find myself envious of those homes full of people and family but I have learned that just because you are surrounded by people, doesn't mean you still can't be lonely. Or if you are alone that you can't be happy. I recall with such happiness the ghosts of Christmas past and am so grateful for the life gifts my parents gave me and to God for giving me my Mom and Dad. I have learned that life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful and no matter how bad things get, we really do all have our own version of Clarence - AS 2 watching over all of us. It just may be harder to believe this on our bad days.
But this year is especially hard with the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook school. To see those shining faces and to know they will not be opening their gifts this year, or having another birthday or sleeping in their bed ever again - that is so difficult to bear. All we can do it pray and cry and pray some more.
So, if today isn't your best day, it really is ok. Life has a way of working itself out. Someone is usually there to lend a helping hand and love is never very far away. I just have to learn to swallow my stubborn pride and ask for help or a hug sometimes. If your relatives are borderline nuts, relish it - cherish it for that is what makes family so special. Be the bigger person and hug someone in your family you don't like very much or wish a complete stranger Merry Christmas with a big smile. What you receive in return may turn out to be your greatest gift this year.
And if you still have a heavy heart, remember that Christmas is really just a day. One day out of 365. If you are sad and lonely, jump in the car and go look at Christmas lights and have a good cry. Eat lots of junk food for the one day. Or watch your favorite non-Christmas movie. Or better yet - watch ELF and laugh til you cry or just go to bed. Because when you wake up on December 26th, Christmas is but a memory. And you have 364 days to make changes so next year is your best Christmas ever!
I wish the magic of a very Merry Christmas to all and to all a good life!