10 Christmases Ago

It snuck up on me. I kept focusing on how next year marks ten years since my mom left us not realizing that this year would actually be the tenth Christmas without her presence. Ten years. I don't even know if I have much to write about it other than I am just kind of shocked that time and life has passed so quickly. It's hard to wrap my head around a milestone number like this. 

I do remember our last Christmas together in 2006. My husband and I weren't even engaged yet. I was only 23, my hubby 22. My brother was only 19. I think that was the first holiday my hubby even came home with me. That seems like an eternity ago. I remember us being together at my parents' house. I remember how happy my mom was that Christmas. My mom was happy that my dad seemed happy. No one was fighting. There was no stress. Everyone truly seemed joyous. There was laughter, gag gifts, and wonderful, although blurry,  pictures from that night. 

I remember the Christmas before that in 2005. It was not as fun to remember. For some reason there was tension, crankiness, no one wanted to be there. It was only our family of four. I had just graduated college that spring and my brother from high school. He was off to college an hour away and I was working full time and lived two hours away. I don't remember if we gathered on the holiday itself or around it to accommodate schedules. I remember there being little joy. Little laughter and lots of tension. Why? No idea. 

But I do remember 2006, how grateful my mom was that it was a much better year. I remember her specifically telling me that.  A whisper today I hold in my heart. A memory I will cherish forever. A moment in time that was already 11 Christmases ago...

Ten Christmases ago holds little memory other than sheer heartache. I remember a physical pain in my heart, a true broken heart. That first Christmas without mom was so soon after losing her that there wasn't much time to even know what to do. All I remember is again going home for Christmas Eve/Day and finding myself, my husband, my brother, and my dad all in that same living room that was filled with joy just the year before. There were tears. Lots of tears. We stood next to the fireplace simply holding on to each other and letting that extremely raw pain flood over us. I don't remember a single gift. I don't remember a meal. I don't remember absolutely anything but how my heart ached. A pain that I never thought would go away. 

This weekend as I celebrate the tenth Christmas without my mom, that heartache is still there. While not nearly as piercingly painful, there is still an enormous tender spot that will bring tears to my eyes. A pain that sometimes feel no one else in this world understands. A pain that I don't feel I need to explain to anyone. A pain that is all mine and it may take an eternity for that tender spot in my heart to fully heal. This time of year makes social situations hard. It makes traditions hard. It makes moving on hard. It puts me in situations that I find extremely stressful, situations where I'd prefer to stay holed up in my tiny home with my little family of four. Making new memories and doing everything I can to subtly bring a piece of my mom into my home this time of year. Moments that only I notice. Songs and smells that bring flashbacks only to me. Ornaments and decorations that only I know were from her and that are deeply cherished. Someday when my kids are older, I hope my heart is stronger to tell them more about my mom this time of year so even though they will never know her, they will know what an angel they have with them always. One who is already walking with Jesus.