Holidays are a time of reflection and self-discovery for those who mourn. Four years have passed since my daughter died, and I am still overwhelmed with memories at Christmas time. Since this was her favorite holiday, I naturally think of her. I remember the thought she put into selecting and making gifts.
I have dreamed about my daughter, too. In my dreams she is either a baby or a toddler. Though four years have passed since she died, I still have times when I can’t believe she is gone. My daughter was 45 years old when she died and at a turning point in her career. A composite engineer, she worked for a large corporation, ran three production lines, received outstanding performance reviews, and was assured of advancement in the company.
Then she died. Yet on Christmas morning, I half expect her to walk in the door with her twins, smiling, and lugging boxes of gifts. I think about the gifts she gave my husband and me and the gifts we gave her. Usually we gave her practical things, like sweaters. Sometimes I chose impractical gifts, like a musical snow globe and a teapot shaped like a beehive with a bee on the round top.
Unfortunately, during the holidays I tend to think too much. “You should have chosen different gifts,” the troublesome side of my personality accuses. The upbeat side of my personality answers, “But all of us need beauty in our lives.” This year, the argument is playing again in my mind and the sound is getting louder.
Thankfully, I have stayed in touch with my daughter’s best friend and we’ve had coffee together several times. Not only is her perspective helpful, she has stayed in touch with my twin grandchildren. My granddaughter sees this friend as a substitute mother and calls her when she has a problem. I respect this friend for her honesty.
One day, when we were having coffee, she said something that startled me. “Helen always said you and your husband never gave up on her,” she noted. What a revelation. My daughter’s high school years were troubled ones and she became involved in drugs and alcohol. Thanks to inpatient treatment and Alcoholics Anonymous, she turned her life around, and became a productive citizen.
My husband and I never knew our daughter was grateful for our faith in her. The comment made me feel like my daughter was speaking from the grave. Of all the Christmas gifts we gave her, believing in her strength may have been the best. This knowledge gives me courage and comforts me.
I don’t have to over-think things. I don’t have to wonder about past gift choices. I don’t have to make myself sad. Instead, I can focus on my daughter’s resilience and the resilience of her children, the twins we love so much. We have become a family and all of us are living new, happy lives. That is our Christmas gift and blessing.
Harriett Hodgson 2011