When the soft falling of snowflakes lit by multicolored lights causes tears to prick the corners of my eyes and the smell of a pine tree filling a warm room opens up an ache in my heart, I get so angry with you. Because, somehow, after ten years, though I have learned to enjoy Christmas again, though the happiness of my own children allows me to smile, something still rings hollow. The center has been scooped out and all of my attempts to refill it still leave a hole.
I try each year to remember the joy that this season brought to you and the happiness you gave us in turn. I decorate, though I can never match the transformation you performed in our house. I tell myself to think of the layers of cotton snow that you so carefully placed around our manger on the mantel and the way you searched each year for the perfect new ornament for our tree. I call up the sounds and smells of our Christmas house: each card we received hung around the doorway, garlard wrapped around the bannister on the stairs, the ceramic village taking up the buffet in the dining room–each house and store lit, tiny people skating on the glass pond. Christmas at our house was by far the happiest season of all.
But, although I fill my mind with these joyous memories and feel the love they project even today, it is the other legacy that still invades this happy time each year. The legacy you left of sadness and loss, of shock and pain and anger. When you lose a person you love, you want to spend times like this remembering the good things. In a way, I think I will always feel like you robbed us of that. There are too many what-ifs. Christmas is forever linked now to that awful raw feeling of knowing that you are gone, that you will never show my children the joy you showed me, you will never choose another gift, never give another hug. Every year I think, “if he had just waited for Christmas everything would have been fine.” But of course, now we’ll never know and isn’t that the worst part?
Death is permanent and while I know that a mind sick with depression and anxiety doesn’t see that things can better, they always can. So that, that, is the legacy I try so very hard to hold onto–nothing lasts forever, every bad thing ends even when it seems as if it won’t. Hope is the legacy I hold in my heart and I give to the people around me. While Christmas will never be the same and each year I will feel that numbing sadness, will deal with that memory of what happened, I use it to remind me of the importance of hope, the thing that you lost.
Ten years ago today I lost my father to suicide. It’s something I have shared with some and not with others for various reasons. Today, after ten years, I finally decided that I needed to share. So many people suffer at this time of year and that suffering is sometimes compounded by the joy of others. If you, or someone you know, is one of them please get help. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it is by far the best. Here are some places to find it.