Last year during the holiday season, I submitted the following essay to NPR's This I Believe. Although it was not selected to read on the radio, it does live in the NPR archives. As another holiday season approaches, and my brother's death is still fresh as the second anniversary approaches, I felt like the sentiment expressed in this essay still applies. And as a thank you to all of those who express their care and concern, it serves as a "thank you" once again.
This, I Believe
My brother died tragically one year ago on Christmas Day 2008. As this year’s holiday season approached, those of us who were most closely connected with him, and those who were our biggest support systems (in my case, my husband) were anxiously anticipating how it was going to be for us this year, on the first anniversary of the traumatic event.
It has been an emotionally charged year to say the least. I dedicated my energies to keeping in touch with my immediate family, planning a weekend-long memorial event in May, crying a lot, keeping his photo close whenever I did something fun or interesting, and desperately hanging on to his spirit. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to Christmas. It will never be the same for me. And I didn’t know what to do. I had so many debates with myself about whether to try and get everyone together, or go to those who I thought would be the most emotional, or spend it with my remaining brother (it was just the three of us), or our mom. But always being considered the “bossy” one, I didn’t want to be that person this year. I didn’t want to be the one to decide for everyone who should be with who, or whether people wanted to be alone with their own thoughts and emotions rather than having me invade that space. And I especially didn’t know those things about myself.
So I decided to take a much needed trip with my husband that led right up to Christmas, and then spend it quietly at home, bracing myself for the emotional turmoil…the anger, the sadness, the overwhelming sense of loss, the self-absorption. And all of those things came in giant force. But so did some other things: the friends that sent the extra card in addition to their usual holiday greeting card, expressing care and concern at this difficult time of year; those that wrote an extra note in their holiday greeting card that they were thinking of my brother; the group that took a moment during their Christmas dinner to raise their glasses of champagne and toast to his memory; the text messages, “Thinking of you and hope you’re doing okay”; the phone calls, “Just checking in. How are you holding up?” The throngs of “I love you"s .
And I noticed and appreciated every single sentiment. And I hope I didn’t forget to say “thank you” to everyone. Just when I was wishing the holiday would just be over, I found the spirit of the season…and the gifts of love, friendship, and family, and the comfort of knowing that I am so very lucky to have that in my life.
I believe if that even in the worst of times, or in the depths of darkness, if you pay attention, you can see the goodness and the light. And I believe that is what Christmas is all about.