All is calm and all is bright on this early morning as I sit in my living room with nothing but the Christmas lights and fireplace on. As I write this morning I’m thinking back to my ride home from work this past week. Christmas music was playing and instead of turning the channel I listened and was brought back to our Christmas 7 years ago. Seven years ago was our last Christmas with Gracie. A smile and a feeling of peace and gratitude came over me as the song “Christmas is the time to say I love you” came over the radio. I began thinking about all of the amazing and generous acts of kindness I witnessed during that Christmas. They all brought a big smile to my face and a sense of calmness to my racing, anxiety filled brain and body. A feeling of wonder filled my mind as I thought about who did what and how everyone pulled together to make Christmas 2011 one of the best Christmases we’ve ever had. It wasn’t the best Christmas we ever had because of the number of presents under the tree. It was the best Christmas we ever had because we witnessed the true meaning of Christmas.
It was a time filled with love and generosity that went above and beyond to make us not feel so alone, sad or afraid. That December I was contacted by a group of friends while we were in the hospital with Gracie. They wanted to decorate our house for us so that when we came home from the hospital it was done and we could enjoy it. This group of people managed to get and set up a beautiful tree for us. They didn’t stop there. They took down the 20 plus bins of Christmas decorations from the rafters and decorated our house. They sifted through the many candles and coffee mugs I’ve received over the years from my students and had a good laugh at the fact that I have kept every single one of them! Soon after I received an intervention on “cleaning out“ the many, many, many mugs and candles! These laughs were a welcome distraction at that time! When we got home from the hospital we were treated to a private caroling session on our front lawn from a group of 5th and 6th grade girls and teachers from my school. It was beautiful and brought smiles, tears and tons of love as I looked around at all the people who cared so very much about Gracie and my family. That Christmas we were surprised by many food and gift card drop offs outside our door, as well as gift baskets filled with comfort items for our family. Blankets, board games, snacks, Christmas movies, holiday trinkets to help us get in the spirit of Christmas in our own home. These are just some of the things that happened that Christmas. You see we couldn’t take Gracie out because of her frail condition at that time, but you all brought Christmas to us. You brought the true meaning of Christmas to us. You brought the gift of love, laughter, peace and smiles to our hearts and minds as we were losing our baby girl. As I look back at that Christmas the words to that Christmas song come to my mind again… Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You. I believe that’s what you all did. Seven years later I get it. We all wanted a miracle for Gracie to get better but we could not physically do that. Instead you surrounded us with gifts of love, as Christmas is the time to say I love you. So this Christmas I want you all to know we love you too.
As quick as that smile and feeling of peace comes to me during the holiday season I’ve learned that it can quickly turn into tears and sadness. I miss Gracie. I wonder what Christmas would be like with all three of my kids here. I also feel saddened that there are other families that are facing the same journey as we are. It has been a tough year at Amazing Gracie’s Gift. Some of our families will be spending this Christmas in the hospital. Some are facing their last Christmas with their child. And some are facing their first Christmas without their child here. We have lost Amazing Gracie’s Gift supporters that have been with us since Gracie’s diagnosis and their families are facing their first Christmas without them here. We also have some supporters that are very sick and may be celebrating their last holiday with their family. My heart aches for all these families. But at the same time a smiles crosses my face and my heart skips a beat as I see and hear our community help all these families as much as they can, like they did for us. I see and hear the true meaning of Christmas all around me. I see and hear the gift of love, laughter, prayers, support and kindness for all.
My Christmas wish this year is that we can continue to put smiles on faces, a feeling of peace in minds, and our hearts will continue to give to those who really need it right now. Spend time with your loved ones this Christmas because you don’t know what the next year holds, what next month holds, not even what the next day or minute has in store for us all. And please remember that Christmas is the time to say I love you.
Christmas is the time to say “I love you”
Share the joys of laughter and good cheer
Christmas is the time to say “I love you”
And a feeling that will last all through the year
by Billy Squier