This holiday season brought so many firsts to my family without my dad. I turned 30 without him (which was surprisingly hard). We had our first Christmas without him. His birthday would have been the day after Christmas, and that was a tough day this year. And then my parent’s anniversary today. It was one thing after another, and our family would have had every reason to sit in a corner somewhere and just let the sadness consume us. I know we all wanted to at various points, but we didn’t.
I think our holiday season was a beautiful representation of everything I have learned in 2012. Experiences this year have taught me that we are not limited to one state of emotion at a time. There can be sadness and sunshine together. We can cry and we can laugh in the same breath. We can remember and we can move forward in the same step. But I’ve also learned that it is so much easier to exist in two (or three, or four, or five…) states at once thanks to the grace of God and the love of a good family.
My dad’s unexpected passing in August has changed my entire life, but not in the way I would expect a death of a loved one to change it. I miss him – we all miss him – but I am learning to miss him, to remember him and, at the same time, to carry him with me as I walk forward. Because he was a man who deserves to be carried on.
Christmas was spent with family who filled our homes with laughter and our hearts with love and light. And though there were moments for each of us where the sadness rose up and threatened to overshadow it all, I was so proud of my family for feeling the sadness and yet choosing to still carrying on. And with each step forward we took, we carried my dad with us. I felt him there.
I decided instead of writing a long, boring blog post outlining every move we made over Christmas, that I would instead put some of our highlights together in a slideshow. As I sorted through our pictures, I was overcome with pride because you can see the joy on the faces of my family. We may not have been happy the whole time, but we were joyful and we were grateful. I hope you can see that joy in our faces. I hope you can feel the love in our family. It’s too strong not to share it.
I am proud of us for moving forward with new traditions without my dad and for carrying carrying him with us as we celebrated old ones. For the first time, we all played golf on my dad’s birthday without him. And we ordered Chinese food for Christmas dinner instead of cooking. But we also still said our family prayer when we sat down to eat, just like we do every year. And we still went to see Christmas lights in golf carts.
It’s a new year. And, though this morning it was hard to think about starting an entire year that my dad will never share with me, I am learning to walk forward while carrying the most important parts of my past with me. I’m learning to be grateful in the midst of grief. To be kind in the face of frustration. To be gentle in the waves of anger. To remember while moving ahead. That’s what New Year’s is for, isn’t it? To look back and ahead at the same time?
I think I’m ready to do that.