The Fifth Christmas Eve

This year was our fifth Christmas without our eldest daughter.  Christmas serves as the wind up into grief season for us, with the familiar thoughts, memories, tastes and smells that bring back 5 years ago so potently.

Some days are better than others over the season.  For myself, Christmas Eve is the pinnacle of the worst of days.  I walk through the entire day in a fog, attempting to manage and most of the time not doing so at all.  For me the worst of any grief lead up is always is the day before the day.   Christmas Eve is both the day before and the day of.  My family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve and it is THE day in my family of the entire year.  It is the day I remember most as a kid, celebrating with all my cousins and family.  It is the day most steeped in tradition, a sacred day filled with the very soul of our family.

It is on this day I took this picture with Ava,

Christmas Eve 2010, Matt and I. I am giggling...

Christmas Eve 2010, Matt and I. I am giggling…

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My Ava girl and I.

We have tried our best to include Ava in our Christmas Eve traditions, to ease our aching hearts and show her how much we miss her. We usually get all dressed for dinner and head over to her tree.  It is tradition that we hang bells on the tree at Christmas, at first they were just the ones we liked most and slowly they turned into tradition.  It was commented by a fellow blogger friend that she would be able to hear the bells ringing for her.  And it stuck.  We take pictures and then go over to my family for presents, traditions, fondue and togetherness.

This year, however, the tradition at her tree just didn’t feel right.

This winter (or until two days ago, lack thereof) has been very mild.  So mild in fact that when we went to her tree on Christmas Eve I thought, why not just all go in play clothes, let Lillian run on the climbers and have fun with it.  I do not want Lillian to think that going to Ava’s Tree is negative or sad, that is why we chose it’s location to be where it is.  So off we go, intent to have fun and take a moment with Ava.

Except when we got there I had forgotten that a three year old does not want to take a minute and hang bells on a tree if there is park equipment to play with.  And that the mild weather would bring out all the pregnant ladies, their big bellies and all their conveniently 4-5 year old children to the park as well.  My entire grief heart space of taking a moment with her was shattered as Matt had to run after Lillian who was running on the wet play equipment as I stood, bells in a hand, alone.

Matthew seeing my tears and desperation to have any sort of moment together with Ava, dragged Lillian back over so we could put her five bells on the tree together.

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It felt forced.  It didn’t feel as it had in the past. It just…wasn’t as Christmas Eve should be.

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No filter…pure Christmas Eve sun

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Josie is such a sucky dog…spot the kid?

So we hung her bells and I tried to avoid eye contact with all the pregnant ladies.  I cried behind my sunglasses and declared this the weirdest of all Christmas Eve’s without her.

We came home and got ready for my parents with all it’s fanfare including a little girl super excited for her Christmas dress.

Our Lily, the brightest thing of all.

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In her Christmas dress