I’m Warming up to Christmas

My morning routine revolves around coffee and darkness broken only by the glow of a laptop screen. I don’t see the need to turn on the lights. I like the dark; I don’t know why. Oh sure, I occasionally step on things left in the floor. But as the kids have gotten older there seem to be fewer obstacles in the path. My wife doesn’t like coffee. I don’t know how she has survived this far. She also doesn’t like darkness. The minute she enters the room, she turns on a lamp.

This is also true at Christmas. Although we have lights strung on a massively fat tree, across our mantel, over the entry arches, and (need I go on) covering every available surface, I don’t turn them on. In fact, I haven’t turned on the tree since I checked the lights we strung on it. I don’t know why. I don’t see the need, I suppose. She will awaken soon and make the rounds turning on switches and plugging things in until the house is awash in color and light.

Funny how that works – how two people alike in so many ways can do things completely differently. We grieve differently, too.

When confronted with our loss, I tend to stuff it down until it is convenient whereas she lets it flow. Her way is probably healthier, but neither is wrong. They are just different.

But then December comes and even I can’t stuff it down. Colored lights… cry. Giant Christmas Pooh… cry. Reindeer ears… cry. I see her face in every decoration. Every little thing we unbox holds a memory. Part of me wants to ship all the boxes away instead of opening them; to close the lid on the entire thing and not bring this emotional mess to the surface. But Kylie loved Christmas. Her last one was so special because despite her frailty she demanded we keep every one of our traditions.


Then came the first one without her. Everything was so raw and fresh. If we hadn’t been trying to soldier through for the sake of the other girls, I might have gotten approval from my Christmas fanatic to forgo the lights and decorations that year. The second was hard also but we knew what our triggers were. Some of them, at least. We were able to anticipate most of the more difficult things and that helped us negotiate the season. There is no avoiding everything, though, because you stumble into things like what you think is a random piece of fabric but was actually her headpiece when she played Mary in the Christmas play. And you cry.


This is our third Christmas without Kylie. I want to preface everything I am about to say with this: I am not getting over her loss and I never will. I will miss her every minute until the day I follow her into the grave.

I haven’t done anything differently, but I find that this Christmas seems to be bringing me more joy than pain. Packed away with the elves was a note she had written and sleeping bags she had made for them while bedridden. It was the sweetest note and I could hear her speaking it. Surprisingly, I smiled. It was a touch from her that I so desperately needed. This Christmas has been like that. When I look around at the ridiculous quantity of lights and decorations she loved, I feel her more and it doesn’t (always) bring me to tears. More often, it warms my heart.

Love and pain; joy and sorrow… they are uniquely intertwined. Without love, loss wouldn’t bring pain. The absence of joy would render sorrow irrelevant. It is an unfortunate fact that we have no means of protecting that which we love. Ultimately, their safety and security is out of our hands. When we come to peace with that and still choose to love, we are setting ourselves up for pain because loss is inevitable, the only question is when.

When the loss comes, we grieve it in proportion to the amount we loved. And in a strange way, the pain of loss perpetuates the love. The sorrow of a memory that causes tears in one moment often brings her smile to mind the next. The emotions are mercifully mingled together and I would rather feel them all than feel nothing.

When I came into the darkness this morning, I turned the tree on and plugged in our big Christmas Pooh. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I just did it. I don’t know why. With my coffee in hand I sat in their glow and brushed a few tears away, but mostly I smiled.

I think I’m warming up to this Christmas thing.



20 thoughts on “I’m Warming up to Christmas

  1. i understand this all too well. and her light is her chistmas gift to you each year. what she left behind for you. for you to share her joy once again, in a new way, but knowing she is still a part of it.

    “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

    It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
    ~ Ray Bradbury

    1. That is beautiful and so true. There is always something left behind. Only time allows you to smile at the memory instead of cry for the loss. I’m not quite there yet, but someday.

  2. Beautifully written and wonderfully conveyed. Christmas will forever have your sweet Kylie in it. I am glad you are warming up to Christmas Mark. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  3. Thanks Mark! Once again your words touch the chord in my questioning heart. I have wondered about that saying, ” it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. “. I have no idea the origin of this statement but I have wondered is it better to have loved and lost when loss is so painful. I don’t know personal child loss and I NEVER claim to understand this loss to any of the parents, I have know whose child died from Cancer. I just know through the years as the number of kids & families, I knew, were waking up everyday with their child gone unfairly forever, I have thought of this. To me, loosing a child is the single worst thing that can happen in life. Parents love so unconditionally and we know things will happen as we raise our children. But I doubt anyone thinks of how life would be without them. It is too painful yet I know many moms & dads who live this reality. Thinking of you, Robin, all your girls! Thanking Kylie for somehow leading me to your blog. Remember, I found you quite by accident. Margy

  4. Mark- I read every one of your posts. I’m way behind and skipped to this Xmas post about warming up but I will go back and read the others eventually. So often I feel that you are writing what I’m thinking. I so wish Lilli & Kylie and our families could have met while our precious girls were alive. Lilli had some similar personality traits to Kylie so I feel like I know Kyle in some ways thru your posts. This is our 2nd Xmas without our Lillibelle. She too loved Xmas and she also was crazy about Halloween and Thanksgiving. I enjoy decorating our house for the holidays which always start w/ Halloween. As she got older she would help me as she loved doing it also. Both of our girls were passionate about life, their families, caring for others and having fun. Ewings took both of their wonderful smiles and laughter way too young. We were just in Atlanta Wed-Fri on our way from Houston to South Carolina. We stayed w/ my hubbies 2nd cousin and his family. Their 2nd daughter (they “only” have 3) was born the same day as Lilli but 3 hrs earlier and in different Atlanta hospitals since we lived in Roswell and they live in town. It was wonderful to meet the girls as we hadn’t seen the oldest & the middle one since 2001 and never met the baby although we had seen them grow up via Xmas cards & other pics. It was also very bittersweet to have a full on adult conversation w/ Blair, Lilli’s 3rd cousin, who shares her bday. She is such a neat & creative 17 yr old, very similar in some ways to how Lilli was when she died 17 mths ago. Thx so much for sharing your thoughts. Your posts really mean so much to me and I’m trying hard to be joyful for our son who is 14 and was really close to his sister. Love & hugs Kay

    1. Thank you for sharing that. I wish we had met too. I think you touched on some of the hardest things we’ve encountered – trying to make things “normal” for her sisters and watching her friends grow up, learn to drive, and date knowing Kylie will never get to do those things. We just do the best we can. Blessings Kay and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  5. Thank you for sharing this.

    Eliza the elf is out, and every time I open the box with my ‘Christmas Crew’, I see the elf which always reminds me of Kylie.

    I was at a training course a few weeks ago, and learned of an interesting theory about grief I’d never heard before called ‘The Fried egg model’. It basically talks about how grief is overwhelming, and doesn’t get smaller as time goes on, but may seem to from the outside as we learn coping strategies and build a life around the loss and grief. Life grows around the grief, but the grief hasn’t changed in size. It resonated much more than other models of looking of grief I’d been taught about before.


  6. Thank you once again for putting my thoughts down in print, as it gets closer to the date when my world fell apart I find myself turning to “Missing Kylie” for comfort and crying.

    Thanks to Kylie, and your writing about what you and your family’s going through, I feel that this quotation, “..and I would rather feel them all than feel nothing.”, is so true.

    It seems a bit ridiculous to write this to you, as I’ve commented pretty much the same on several other posts before, but at the same time I think that you should know how much your writing helps, both the humorous and the heartbreaking.

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