To my beautiful friend,
For most people, Christmas is one of the most exciting days of the entire year. It’s spent laughing and joking with family. Stuffing yourself one plateful past breaking point and sipping on one too many glasses of Baileys. It’s a time when everyone comes together to celebrate the unique bond they have, not just with the family they were born into but a collection of relatives that, if given the chance, they’d choose to be theirs over and over again. Well most of them anyway.
Once (although it feels like a lifetime ago) Christmas was like that for me too.
I remember bags as tall as me stuffed with presents. Cooking my first Christmas dinner (I was obsessed with cooking even as a pre-teen). Duelling my sister with our light up Harry Potter wands. Unquestioningly burning our letters to Santa and just *knowing* he’d receive them… The utter devastation of seeing the real Santa (my mum) at work, wrapping our presents with a glass of vino in hand. It really was all so magical to me. So I get it, I do.
But ever since my mum died ten years ago – it’s just never held that same romance. In fact, in many ways, it can be on the opposite end of the scale altogether. It can be painful. Being orphaned at Christmas sounds like the premise of a Disney film, but as it turns out it’s actually my life. Along with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it’s just one more reminder. One more broken record that won’t quit playing.
Though I love the idea of Christmas I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever truly love the actual day again.
Cancer didn’t whisk my mum away unexpectedly one night. It chipped away for years, taking away small pieces until one day there wasn’t enough left behind to carry on. And on our last Christmas, I remember seeing my Granny utterly devastated to know that at eighty years old she was in better health than her own daughter who could no longer walk to the table. Who was so sick she couldn’t eat the food I’d spent hours trying to perfect. Sadly, that’s the memory of Christmas that I remember most. The grief and the helplessness. Not all the precious moments I told you about.
But after ten years I’ve finally come to accept, to make my peace with it and I think the past ten years of my life taught me anything it’s how to use my experiences for the good of others.
So this is for you.
Maybe it’s your first Christmas without them, you still find yourself hoping there’s been a horrible mistake. They’ll be coming to the table soon because they couldn’t possibly be gone. But deep down you know it’s true and no amount of presents or dry ass turkey can fill the empty space at the table or in your heart.
Or perhaps you’re further along now. Though you don’t look for them anymore you can’t help the icy sense of dread that creeps up on you as December rolls around each year. The pangs of jealousy when you see your friends or your tinsel-laden coworkers sharing their day online. The guilt that comes with feeling that way.
Whatever emotion you’re feeling, I’ve felt it all. And though I wish I could take the pain away from you, I’m afraid all I have are these words. So know this. You will be astounded by just how resilient you can be. What you’ve gone through will only make you a stronger lover and a better friend.
It’s okay to be sad. Or to take some time over the festive period to think of how different life might have been, but don’t get stuck in the past or spend your life regretting. Torturing yourself with things you’d wish you’d done or words you could have said.
In my opinion, the best way to honour the life of someone you care about is by living yours to the fullest. To embody the best parts of them and immortalise them in your spirit.
My beautiful friend, in the wake of your loss I hope you know that I’m rooting for you. And I for one can’t wait to see the woman/man you become.