We felt it was time to open up Theo's stocking for this 2009 Holiday Season. I did some color changes and font changes, but have had a hard time coming up with what to say for an opening post. I have felt very sad lately. I wish I could say that things are great, we are incredibly happy, we are full of gratitude, and all that. And it is true--much of that is true. We are happy. We have a lovely home, food to eat, access to clean water, heat, electricity, transportation, clothes to wear, jobs, family, and friends who love us. Our Lula is absolutely beautiful. She is funny, exuberant, full of life, sweet, and she brings joy wherever she goes. But all that we have, and Lula's joyous presence, does not change the sadness in our hearts that our first born child is not here to share in all our many blessings. Or that Lula will never know her brother in this life.
Sometimes it is hard to hold those two sorts of feelings together in the same space of a heart. Joy next to pain, happiness alongside grief. But it happens in my heart all the time. My friend Kara wrote about that very thing in her blog. She beautifully captured the difficult feelings of a bereaved parent who may have much to be grateful for in life, but who also continues to experience deep sadness and pain, and often, resentment and guilt. For the bereaved, those painful feelings often sit side by side with gratitude and appreciation for so much that is good in our lives. Read Kara's thoughts at KotaPress here.
The holiday season is difficult to say the least. Happiness for Lula's presence and the joy of her infectious excitement, as well as genuine gratitude for all the blessings we have, exist alongside the heavy sadness and grief we perpetually carry--and which is particularly poignant at this time of year. The holidays are just hard. The holidays are always and will always be hard. We will forever be missing Theo. This stocking project stems from the awful pain of our first Christmas without Theo. I won't go into the whole story of Theo's stocking here. Most of you reading will already know the story. If you do not know the whole story, please go to the archives here and read backwards from the first post, where I explain how and why we decided to do Theo's Christmas Stocking Project.
Mostly, we do this now because it gives us a means by which to concsiously engage in acts that will honor our son and his life and to demonstrate to others how much he is a presence in our family's life. We do it so that other people will think of him and remember his sweet face, his peaceful energy, his short, but brave and beautiful life. The biggest fear of a bereaved parent is that someday, other people will forget our children. How special, how brave, how beautiful, how important they were...and still are. In committing acts of kindness for others and dedicating those acts to Theo--to his memory, his life--we help to ensure that his spirit, which was so loving, giving and gentle, will continue on through us. Through us, he continues to touch others. Through you, he can continue to touch others. When you commit your acts of kindness, please think of him, send him a thought, a prayer, a wish, and think too, of those you love who have died. Commit your acts of kindness in memory of Theo as well as in memory and honor of those you love who have died.
I wish that we were a culture who could openly live with our dead. A culture which celebrates those we love who have died. A culture that openly talks about them and honors them throughout the year. I wish we had an equivalent of Mexico's Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, where we could spend the day in celebration and honor of the lives of those we love who have died. A day to spend time teaching family about those who have died, the recently dead as well as ancestors, so that we could keep their memories alive and part of the life of the family. Dia de los Angelitos is a special day to remember and celebrate and mourn children who have died. I wish we had such a day in our own culture. There are many bereaved parents who would weep with gratitude at an opportunity to talk about and remember and celebrate publicly the lives of their children who have died. That we can celebrate and mourn at the same time is a very hard concept for our culture. But it can be done. It would be an easier thing if we were not such a death denying culture.
People like me know that the pain does not go away, we merely learn to manage it--but it can be done in such a way that we can also be happy people. We can lead productive, useful, happy lives, we can know joy, we can laugh and have fun. But there is nothing that ever makes it better that my son is dead. That never gets better. It will also never change. I do what I can to help other people know that they can manage this kind of devastating pain, that they can live again; and that they can continue to celebrate, remember, honor, and make a place in their family for their child who has died. I never plan to say goodbye or "move on". There is no "getting over it." I move forward in my life and I take Theo with me. The pain also goes with me, but so does the love and the joy, and the knowledge that I am forever his mother. Nothing will change that.
This special Christmas Stocking blog is one of the ways we continue to keep him and his memory alive in our hearts and his spirit moving through the world.
We will be honored if you will participate with us and commit random acts of kindness throughout this Christmas and Holiday season. Please share with us your stories of kindness and, if you wish, the stories of the people you love and miss and in whose names you commit your kindnesses. Helen Keller said "What we have enjoyed and deeply loved, we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us."
We will also post here the kindnesses we commit in Theo's memory. Check back often to read ours and other people's stories of kindness.
Love to all--