Matt,   Christmas is in 15 days.   I’m trying to hold on.   This will be our 6th Christmas without you and I can say it hasn’t gotten any easier.   I’ve decorated the house.  Not like I used to but it does look like Christmas.   Every year since your death I’ve purchased a deer in your memory.   I remember when you would be so excited that hunting season finally arrived and I would cringe and call you Bambi killer.   You were such a lover of animals I could never understand your love for hunting.   Perhaps it was the bond you shared with your brother Mike.   The two of you always competing for the biggest prize.

You would brag about the “rack” on the deer you killed and I would cover my ears and tell you I would never eat Bambi.   You would have jerky made and you and Ray would smile as you devoured it as I would close my eyes in disgust.   I told you no Bambi meat was ever allowed in my freezer.   You’d smile that beautiful smile and tell me you had the meat donated to a homeless shelter but the jerky was definitely staying.   I never did try it but to this day Ray still talks about how it was the best he ever tasted.

Little memories of seasons past sneak into my brain bringing both joy and heartache.   Today I would welcome your deer with open arms.   Today I would welcome anything that had to do with you.

I’ve decorated your garden for Christmas.  There is a wreath hanging from the cross.   Poinsettias are carefully placed next to your stone along with white lights that shine through the darkness of night.   This has become my peaceful place.   It’s where I come to talk to you and God.   It’s where I allow the tears to flow.   To let my mask fall to the ground and shatter into a million little pieces.   This is the place I run to when life beats me down and I feel like I can’t survive one more day of my grief.

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I sit and absorb the stillness.   I listen to the wind as if I might hear your voice.   I dream of what you would be like today.   Would you be married, have children, have a home filled with laughter and love.   I let my imagination wander, let my fantasy take over closing my eyes I picture your home.   A beautiful tree loaded with presents.   Children and dogs chasing each other as squeals of laughter fill the air.   I hear your voice saying Merry Christmas Mom.   I feel your arms as they wrap me in your famous hug.   I allow myself the gift of how I prayed life to be.   I allow my heart a few moments to take a break from the grief that has moved in and refuses to leave.

I struggle to find the beauty in little things.   Yesterday a hawk was sitting on a tree near your garden.   He flew over me as I got close.   I felt like I’d been given a gift.   His beauty in flight lifted my spirits as I wondered for a moment if that was you.

Since your death I look at life differently.   I know that in the blink of an eye everything once expected can shatter at your feet.   I take time to scan the night sky looking for the brightest star lifting up a prayer for you.   I talk to God like he is my friend.   I ask for signs that you are at peace.  I walk on days once considered too cold enjoying the crispness of the air and the songs of the birds.   I take nothing for granted.

Life has taught me that although it can be filled with heartbreak, there are still moments that continue to take my breath away.