The Five Senses of Christmas
It was eight years ago this past week that we took our family to Disney World. We traveled, laughed, walked, talked, smiled, hugged and held our kids A LOT. We enjoyed our time together as our nineteen month old daughter was battling cancer. She was really sick. She had just finished a round of chemo that left her little body and mind exhausted, but we knew that this was our time to go. We knew that we had to get away from hospital and home life for a few days to unplug and spend time being a family without that big black cloud over our heads. We often joked about taking Gracie to a tropical island far, far away to escape reality and her diagnosis. It’s funny how we thought everything would disappear if we did that. I know a lot of us feel like we just need to escape to a place where we can relax and forget about the stresses of life with the ones we love. When we picture this place or this vacation in our minds, what are we truly picturing? I know that I picture simple things like some place warm with sand between my toes and a good book, but most of all what makes me smile when I think about my escape place is being with friends and/or family who make me laugh and feel loved. In this place, I don’t need my phone or souvenirs or anything that distracts me from a real moment in time. What I need and want can be fulfilled through my five senses- sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. I can see the ones I love in a beautiful place. I can hear the laughter and talking. I can taste the salt in the air. I can smell the ocean air. I can touch a hand; I can hold my babies, and I can feel their love as I hug them. What I’m beginning to realize is, I don’t have to escape and go far away to some beautiful or exotic place to feel fulfilled. A good trip is fun and needed sometimes, but don’t we all deserve to evoke our five senses in order to feel fulfilled on a daily basis?
When we returned from our Disney trip, we got off the plane and went right to the clinic at the hospital, as Gracie needed to be seen a few times a week and vacation disrupted that plan, so her appointment was scheduled for the minute we got off that plane. When we arrived, we were on our post vacation high, but we knew that important decisions in Gracie’s treatment plan needed to be made. We immediately felt that sense of fear and helplessness. It was eight years ago that we got off that plane from Disney and eight years ago that our doctor sat us down and told us Gracie was going to die. The treatments were not working and they were making her so sick that the doctors feared the chemo would take her life before the cancer did. I remember sitting there crying, wondering how and why this was happening and staying there for a long period of time hoping that maybe the doctors would come back in and tell us we could try something else. We knew Gracie’s cancer had a very poor prognosis, but we always had hope. But on this day, our doctors told us the worst news ever: Gracie was going to die. How did we go from one of our escape places full of happiness to this place full of worry and sadness? As we sat in the clinic room waiting for the doctor or anyone to come back in and tell us something different, something more positive, I looked down at Gracie in my arms. All that girl wanted was to be with us, to be held by us, and to be in a comfortable place with us. She deserved to be home, comfortable and surrounded by love. That’s when we left that room and headed home with our terminally ill daughter.
We headed home during what was supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, yet we had to tell our friends and family that our beautiful little girl was going to die. I’m not sure if anyone said a word on the way home. We knew what had to be done for the remaining time left with Gracie. All Gracie wanted and needed was to see, hear, smell, touch and feel the love from her family. Fortunately, we had an army to help us do this. People cooked, decorated, shopped, and did everything for us so we could focus and be present for Gracie and Luke. We unplugged from technology and held our Gracie, taking in all the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and touches with our family of four while we could. It was one of the most meaningful and special Christmases we’ve ever had. I didn’t stress over gifts or material things, for there were much bigger stresses. It put into perspective the true meaning of Christmas. Our family, our friends, and our community gave up themselves to bring happiness to our family. There isn’t a gift that is more special than that.
Christmas of 2011 will always weigh heavily on my mind. It is a time I need to think about more frequently to remind myself to slow down, to take a break from technology, and to just be present in my family’s and friends’ lives. This holiday season and each and every day after, may you all receive the simple gifts of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching with those you love.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.