Dear Santa, Thank You

Dear Santa,

This isn’t your ordinary Christmas letter. I’m not sending a long list of gizmos and gadgets that will unfurl across the workshop floor. In fact, I’m pretty well set with stuff this year. I just wanted to say thank you.

I don’t really know when I stopped believing in you. I can’t recall a traumatic scene where I saw dad unloading presents under the tree and I certainly never saw you plant a kiss on mom – I can’t imagine the confusion that would have caused. No, mine is the garden variety of unbelief. Somewhere along the way, I guess I got too old, too mature. I wanted to be all grown up. Looking back, I think when it happened, I lost myself, not you.

I began chasing what I thought was important and neglecting what you stand for: consistency, generosity, peace, love, joy. You can’t blame me, I was young. I didn’t know. It’s what everyone else was doing. But regardless of what I believed, or where I was, you showed up – year after year like clockwork. You relentlessly pursued me despite my rejection.

I married a woman who never forgot. She tried to bring me back around when we were newlyweds but I only saw price tags and expenses through the lens of a limited budget. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t see… until children came. Through their innocent eyes, I found you again.


All the while I thought you were there for them, but you were gently bringing me back into the fold, too. There was always something in your bag for me. Even though I stayed in the back and watched from a distance, I loved every minute of it. You had some rough encounters with number three. Your beard was a little much for her. But you patiently waited until she understood.

Little number four loved you from the start. She loved everything about Christmas and nothing more than you, Santa. The elves you entrusted her with made December special for many years. She truly loved you.



I use the past tense because we lost her to cancer almost four years ago. I think you know that, Santa, but I’m not completely positive because you still visit her here. Still, you show up. When that first Christmas came around, I didn’t think I wanted to see you – all that you stand for had departed with her and you could only bring memories. Yet there you were in your frumpy red suit, spreading joy that admittedly felt somewhat fake at the time. But nevertheless, you were there.

These last four Decembers have been hard. But lately I’m figuring something out that I should have learned long ago: it’s not about me. Santa always gives and never takes. And when I set my heavy bag down to lay things out for someone else, my burden is lighter. In doing for others, I somehow find peace and joy for me. That’s kind of what you’re about, isn’t it Santa? How did I not see that before?

And this year, you asked if you could meet us early… just to say “hi” to one of your biggest fans. It was only a minute. But you’ll never know what it meant to me. It was a reprieve from everything I feel like she is missing. It was sweet, and it was special. It was Christmas.


I realize that for the rest of my life, Christmas have a hard edge because it makes me miss little number four. But from now on, I want you with me, Santa.


Thank you, Santa.

Thank you for not giving up on this poor old fool. I know it took a long time, but I believe again. And this time it’s for good.



Christmas Roulette

It is nearly December… sigh.

In all honesty, I dread the arrival of the holidays. We are Christmas people who over-decorate every inch of our home. We have amassed an attic full of trinkets and baubles that I just lugged downstairs. The end of the Georgia summer heat sets off a season of much-loved family tradition and I should be excited for its arrival. But, now… now there is a specter – a tangible presence is ushered in with the falling leaves and hovers in our home. It would be more apt to label it a tangible absence.

I would best describe it as a constant feeling that something bad is about to happen – like I’ve got a bill due that I cannot pay or a tense confrontation that is imminent. I can function, smile, and do what I’m supposed to do. But this feeling is perpetual and keeps me on edge.

The specter haunts anyone who has experienced recent loss and certainly every grieving parent I know shares my dread of the Christmas. This time of year is the ultimate paradox and I’ll share the main reasons why.

The holidays bring family together. We sit, talk, reminisce, and look forward. And while we laugh, my mind drifts back to chilly February days when this same group of loved ones sat vigil watching Kylie’s body deteriorate. Days later we gathered around a coffin. Those images resurface when our larger family is together. Same group of people, same scenes floating through my mind. I wish they would stop, but I can’t make them and don’t know if I ever will.

Holiday traditions are another struggle. Sometimes following them makes me happy and sometimes it leaves me gasping for breath because the hole is magnified times ten. I have no way of knowing which emotion will surface – grief’s most callous trick is its randomness. To compound the problem, modifying traditions feels like I am trying move on from a space I can’t and don’t want to leave. It becomes a game of Christmas Roulette – spin the chamber and fire, never knowing which tradition will shoot a bullet straight through the heart.

Do we hang the stocking?      Yes

Will it cause me to sigh every time I pass?      Yes

Do we hang Kylie’s ornaments?      Yes

Can we ever make a Christmas card again?      Not Likely

When we watch Elf will I always hear her Buddy impersonations?      Yes

Oh, the memories that this time of year brings: tree shopping, elf tricks, screaming babies in Santa’s lap, early morning sprints to the stockings, red and green wrapping paper explosive mayhem. In the silence of the season, I love them and I crave them. But I also despise them because one of my children won’t be coming downstairs to pour through her stocking.

It’s a very cruel Holiday Paradox.


Rather than leave this post without any hope or positivity, I’ve been trying to figure out what advice to offer those who might have a friend or loved one living this paradox. This is hard because I do not believe time heals all wounds and since the circumstance that caused the grief cannot be altered, there is almost nothing anyone can do to help. I think the greatest gift I could receive is for friends to understand that they just can’t understand nor can they fix. Words likely won’t comfort but a listening ear is to be cherished.

In the end, I suppose my Christmas wish is for my friends to enjoy their holidays, love their families, and know I might need an extra ear or shoulder from time to time in December. If they can do that and tolerate my lunacy until January, I’ll get by. And when the game is roulette without a wheel, getting by is the best and only option.