Our Tenth Christmas without you

tenth christmas without you

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (in theory), but the reality is sometimes a little different.

Everybody wants to showcase a merry, picture-perfect version of events, and glisten over the less sparkly side of life, but it’s ok if that isn’t how you feel right now.

For me, it’s finding room for my grief at Christmas. It seems strange that this is our tenth Christmas without my dad. It feels like an age since we last celebrated with him. I never imagined this far into the future, I couldn’t, as a terminal diagnosis (out of the blue) made it near impossible for me to imagine myself as an adult or living to a specific age.

However, time keeps passing for some of us and we’re extremely lucky every time we wake up another day and our families and friends are healthy and happy, as that can all change in an instance.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written for myself, so please forgive me for this long-winded ramble as my over-stuffed brain overflows with thoughts.

Christmas was always such a magical time throughout my childhood. My brother and I used to wait outside the lounge when we were little, as dad and mum would go ahead and turn the tree lights on, get the cam corder ready and capture this special morning when we were all together. It would be a house full with my my Nan, Grandad, Aunty and Granny too.

A bustle of excited voices, desperate to peek inside and see if Santa had been (shoutout to all the parents who chewed a random carrot and half-drank a glass of milk for decades).

My heart aches to think of those care-free days, before we heard the word cancer. I loved every single second of time spent with my family at Christmas, but I only really appreciated how safe and happy my life had been when it all began to change.

Now, it’s just the three of us on those mornings (my Mum, my brother and I) along with those distance memories of Christmas mornings packed full of life and people. The first Christmas without Dad was rough.

I played into the forced joyfulness, blasted music from dusk till dawn and lit as many lights as I could possibly find, so it felt full and loud and bright.

I learnt much later that nothing would replace the vibrancy my dad brought to everything through his infatuating love of life, and that I didn’t need to try to make up for the gaping hole his loss left. I learnt to co-exist with my pain and not feel guilty when I did start to feel joyful again as the years passed and we forged new traditions.

Yet, I still hear his laughter echoing through the ever-cooling walls. I expect to find him sleep on the sofa in the hallway, after he exhausting himself by dancing and fulfilling his role as resident entertainer, the Christmas pudding maker and the custard King. To this day, we still have no idea what the secret to that custard was.

Now, we meet in dreams. Sometimes it’s wonderful – we’re on adventures, we go for long walks and catch up, and I wake up wondering why we don’t do it more often, before I remember he’s gone. Other times, it’s reliving parts of dad’s illness and death that my mind does it’s best to help me forget.

But that joy my dad had for life, the joy I shared and lost, has come back to me. Ever so slowly, I have rebuilt a new kind of happiness that has made me grateful for the life we had together, rather than devastated that it ended too soon.

It turns out a lot can change in ten years. I’m an adult, officially, though I’m still in denial about that part. I have a wonderful partner and friends who make my heart swell with admiration to know and be known by such remarkable people. I’m so grateful for all the family I do have, and that everyone is healthy this year and we can celebrate at home together.

This is the first of many upcoming tenth anniversaries without you, but I don’t plan to just write a slightly bizarre ramble for each one. Instead, on the horizon, there are adventures, acts of remembrance and many toasts to be had for the life you lived and the life we continue to live for ourselves and in your memory. After all, if anything these anniversaries are a reminder that life is short and time passes far too quickly, so it’s impossible not to grab it with both hands.

It might be your first Christmas without someone you love, it might be your thirty-first, but I hope you still feel the love they gave you, the light they brought you and find a way to feel some joy this Christmas with your loved ones who are still with you.

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