Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas: Plenty of joy and a side of sorrow

Steve was particular about Christmas music. We were constantly in search of a CD of acceptable music. I'm not sure that he ever found one he liked. (You didn't want to get him started on Mannheim Steamroller. He was staunchly anti-Mannheim Steamroller.)

Katie seems to have inherited his musical taste. She's a constant critic while we listen to the Holly station on Sirius-XM.

"This song is about a greedy child. I don't like it."

"There aren't enough songs about Christ."

"I don't like it when someone new sings an old song."

"When are they going to play a CLASSIC Christmas song?"

Mary Blige started singing "My Favorite Things" as we pulled into the driveway today. "I like this song, but I have no idea why they think it's a Christmas song. This singer is OK, but I like The Sound of Music lady much better."

Steve would be proud.


We visited Santa on Monday. He's been our Santa since Cooper was six months old. We've followed him from Frisco to Allen to Fairview. (And we'll always go, no matter how any particular child feels about the realness of Santa.)

This time was particularly poignant for me. There was no crowd, and Santa had time to chat.

From his chair he craned his neck up at Cooper. "Oh, my! You've gotten so tall!" Then he looked at me. "Momma, what do you think? At least six inches since last year?" (He's close. Cooper just doesn't stop growing.)

He visited with each child. (Cooper wants two DVDs for Christmas. Katie wants Disney Tsum Tsum stuffed animals and a live animal for another family through Heifer International.) He was as kind and gentle as he's been every year since 2001.

In that moment I thought of the constants in our lives since 2001. Our family. Our church. Our Santa.

And I thought of how much I miss Steve and how much he would have loved to see 6-foot Cooper perched on the chair next to Santa -- such a contrast to the tubby little six-month-old balanced in Santa's arms 13 years ago.

Santa and six-month-old Cooper, December 2001
Santa and six-month-old Katie, December 2005
13-year-old Cooper, Santa and 9-year-old Katie, December 2014

It was a rainy, cold, dreary night. We were exhausted from a day of driving, worry and questions with no answers.

Steve and I gathered in a dark and sterile room at Baylor Frisco, staring at an image of his brain. There was a spot that shouldn't be there. It was the first obvious, tangible answer to the question: Why was Steve having slurred speech and awful headaches and frequent hiccups and difficulty swallowing liquids?

Dec. 11, 2007.

I hate that Steve's building diagnosis was during Christmas.

There's been a heaviness to the season ever since. Some of my writerly qualities are a curse. I remember vivid details -- songs, scents, sermons, conversations. I can replay those moments and feel like I'm there, in the middle of Steve's great suffering.

I love that Steve's building diagnosis was during Christmas.

All of that suffering was buffered by an outpouring of love. Gifts were purchased and wrapped for our babies. Meals were delivered. We were wrapped in warm hugs and sincere prayers.

God's promise of peace was realized over and over again right here in our tiny corner of Frisco, Texas.

God's promise is realized over and over again in everyday moments all over the world -- because people choose kindness, because they choose generosity, because they choose forgiveness, because they choose love.

For every moment that my mind drifts back to MRIs and emergency room visits, to fear and anxiety, I try to remember hugs and laughter, kindness and peace.

For every moment of sorrow, there's overwhelming joy.

Steve, 2-year-old Katie, Tyra, a very young Santa, 6-year-old Cooper, days before Steve's first MRI 
Tyra, Cooper and Katie, Dec. 7, 2014

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