It's gotten way too late on this Sunday - everybody else has retired for the night. I turned the TV off awhile ago, but I just can't get myself to stand up and go to bed – I admit, I dread Monday every weekend, but I've especially been fearing this week for some time. As I sit here staring at and talking to the pictures of my daughter on the wall under the shelf with her remains next to the electric candle that we keep going 24x7 in her honor, I'm thinking about how earlier in the evening I was looking over my wife's shoulder as she put the final touches on this year's family Christmas card. Since May 1st, the toughest question I am asked is "how many kids do you have?" – it was such an easy question before that day. There are so many things that changed and have become more difficult the moment we lost Gracie. I'm also thinking about the time we spent at Target today - Despite the fact that we haven't yet even had Thanksgiving, the store was filled to the brim with everything Christmas – I'm usually all about the commercial aspect of the holidays – I love getting and giving presents, drinking hot butter rum, and eating way too many cookies, but this year, everything is different – and I guess now that I'm thinking about it, that's kind of saying a lot considering last Christmas was spent in Boston. Our Christmas dinner was a hodge podge of microwavables and snack foods bought from behind the desk of the hotel lobby – Santa was so kind as to deliver gifts to Gracie's room because Christmas was only a few days after her final heart surgery – The surgery that finally fixed her heart – my sweet girl Lylli, still so happy to unwrap her gifts sitting on a window bench seat, silver bells and a three year olds carefree Christmas morning replaced by limited visitation surrounded by the beeps and alarms of the ICU - watching Lylli propped up on a stool leaning against the side of Gracie's bed happy to be watching cartoons with her sister on the goofy tv that resembled a dentist light hanging above - But the most important thing was that we were together – These last three holiday seasons have taught me more than any previous about this life. Gracie was born in November, we got out of the hospital the day before her first Christmas, we weren't able to bring her out to see our family and friends that year. This would have been her third Christmas, but the first one where we weren't dealing with pending or recovering from surgeries – the first one where we would have brought her out to see everyone. I was really looking forward to all of my kids having a normal routine this year and will always regret that she never got to experience one. Speaking of Thanksgiving day this Thursday, it would have also been Gracie's 2nd birthday. A day that has been causing me more and more anxiety every day as it approaches. I will do my best to make it a happy day, but I'm afraid it's going to be a tough one. This blog post was not meant to be a whoa is me sympathy plea – I wrote it because the best thing I can do to honor my daughter is to share what I have learned from her, so to anyone that will listen – As you prepare for your turkey day celebration and the pending holiday season, I just want you to try to remember that it's not about getting the most expensive Barbie Castle that you can find or about how many events you can fit into each day, it's a time to give thanks and enjoy the greatest gifts of all – your kids, family and friends. I've always said that the toughest lessons you learn in life, you learn after you can use what you learn from them – I guess that is true for the incident that taught you that lesson. But life is full of "If I knew then, what I know now" moments – and I'd like to suggest something based on what I've learned, Take some time over these next days/weeks/months, a real moment to sit with your kids/loved ones and hold them and tell them how important they really are to you and to tell them how proud they make you – take a step back and really feel how blessed you are to have them to share times like these with because you truly never know what tomorrow will bring and if God forbid, that day comes where they are no longer around, you will regret every single kiss you didn't choose to give them.
I wish everyone the happiest Thanksgiving and holiday season