Christmas was always my favorite holiday...beginning in September I made my lists (all the names of who I was buying for (and WHAT), how much I would spend each pay-from Sept-Dec., when I would write my Christmas cards(about 100), when they would be mailed, what weekend I would make cookies, and when to wrap the presents. Then when to shop for groceries for the annual Fortener Christmas here (on Christmas Eve)...and somehow fit in decorating. I pretty much did it myself. OH... they all loved Christmas as much as I did, just not the preparations...Hard to believe it was my FAVORITE holiday. But I did love it.
As the years went by, the kids got older, the lists grew longer and my temper grew shorter...the winter depression set in. Finally, one year (before Christmas) my good friends Sharon & Jennifer convinced me to go to the doctor to get something "to help me get through the winter"....so I did. I'll never forget THAT Christmas. The kids kept saying "What's wrong with mom? She's not yelling!"...(and knowing I was on medication) they would laugh and say "OH, she must be on drugs!"...and they laughed and I laughed because it didn't matter...I was HAPPY. So I continued to do all the crazy hectic Christmas things.....
That was THEN.
In 2008, things changed. In the summer, Melissa had a reoccurence and it was everywhere. I knew it wasn't good. Fall came and went, never even thought about making a list.
By Thanksgiving she was in the hospital.
By Christmas, she had been to Hospice for ten days, then after pleading with the nurses, they let her come home.
She came home to our house...and Hospice set our family room up into a comfortable "Hospice at home".
I remember when she came in, she was pleasantly surprised - her bed was right in front of the big screen tv- she had a rolling tray for her food...everything was within reach. And there was the oxygen. It was a VERY noisy machine - but we got used to it very quickly - and had 45 ft of cord, so she could get to the bathroom, or pretty much anywhere she wanted to go around the house. I went upstairs to get something, and when I went back to the family room, she was GONE. I thought "OMG, where did she go????"...then I noticed the cord...followed it to the basement. She was walking around looking through boxes. just wandering. I asked her what she was doing..."Just looking".
The next ten days went by in the blink of an eye.
I had NO list, but Christmas had to go on. What about gifts? I could get out for an hour or so, but I didn't want to leave her.
What about food? Taken care of by WONDERFUL friends.
Christmas cards? No way (no time).
Decorations? We took care of those the Saturday after Thanksgiving when John stayed with her in the hospital. Not much, but enough that she loved it.
As for the gifts, a couple of days before Christmas I went to Kohls. Got a couple of things for everyone and went to get in line - there were probably 25 people ahead of me. I just started crying - then ran into an ANGEL (by the name of Mike Schmidt). I asked if he was going to wait in the line...when he said "yes"...I asked if he would pay for my things and drop them off (and I would write him a check when he got to our house!)- I HAD to get home...and he took it and said "GO". An hour later he was ringing our doorbell - delivering the "stuff"... Wouldn't have had gifts if it weren't for him...
I also went to Beermans - saw a red and black warmups - called Melissa to see what she thought - "you don't have to buy me anything mom...OH...OK - I'd love them..."
(they are still hanging in my closet)....
And for the first time, we opened Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve...I was a staunch believer in YOU ONLY OPEN ON CHRISTMAS MORNING. IT was simple...just me, Donny, Melissa, John, Nick, Mere & Drew... We spent most of the time watching Drew open his gifts - Melissa took lots of pictures and videos - can't see her, but you can HEAR her voice talking to Drew. We each had a couple of gifts to open and we laughed and we talked and enjoyed EVERY minute. AND Drew took his first steps to Melissa that Christmas. AND Nick & Mere announced that she was pregant - they really wanted Melissa to name the new baby (that's ANOTHER story)...so Fort KNEW about Max. (we tell him that too)...It was THE best Christmas ever. She even said so.
Christmas now? No lists. Very little shopping. A small tree and some lights out for the kids. No cards (sorry, just not there yet).
Last minute shopping/wrapping (I'd have THAT all done by now - while watching It's a Wonderful Life - still my favorite.
Not much energy for all that. I THINK about doing things alot. I guess that's half the battle. I'll get done what I need to get done.
SO. We get through the holidays, but as you can see, the memories are still very fresh. Drew & Max help - a lot. Working (I never thought I would say this) actually helps too.
The next couple weeks are going to be hard. First Christmas, then the anniversary, then her birthday - which by the way, we will probably go to the cemetary again this year and send her balloons (with messages) - if you'd like to join us, we'd love that. And we will ALWAYS go to China Cottage for her birthday - not sure if it was her favorite, but it was tradition. And we are big on tradition. Then we'll get through the winter...with a break in February - doing the Donna Breast Cancer Marathon (I'm doing the half with Jen & her friends and Sharon is going this year too)...in Jacksonville, Florida. That will help.
So were almost through another holiday. One day at a time.....
and OF COURSE, I end on a HAPPY note....the only way Fort would have it....
I said I would post any "TREASURES"...found another one. Donny was going through some boxes, found this one...I am SO glad I saved EVERY card. She wrote messages on everything...this one is SO her...
When Melissa was in Hospice, good friends of ours brought this snowman to Melissa to help make the room "festive"...it's one of the only Christmas things that I can put out (that was out when Melissa was here)...Max gives him a hug...
Every once in awhile the kids get a book and sit on my lap...Drew found his scrapbook from Aunt Fort (she was working on it for Drew for his first Christmas. She never got to finish it, so Stacy & Ang worked on it and finished for him for his first Birthday...it makes me SO happy that he has something that SHE made! He loves it too!
Drew LOVES when pop pop chases and tickles him...
Donny, Nick & I took Drew & Max to a holiday "extravaganza" at Bellbrook Middle School (one of the teacher's I work with organized the event)...lots of kids games, food, Christmas music, and Santa. Drew decorated cookies for himself and Max...and had to EAT them right away of course!
Donny & I attended our first Compassionate Friends Memorial Service...there were over 60 names of Children in the program...and family members there to represent each child and light a candle in their memory. At the beginning of the program, they read a poem called "The Lighting of the Five Candles" -
Candle for our Grief, Candle for our Courage, Candle for Our Memory, Candle for our Love and Candle for our Hope. I got to light the candle for Our Hope. It's the candle in the middle...it didn't burn down like the rest of them...maybe Fort letting me know she was there? (Donny says, maybe it was colder than the other candles...I like to believe she was THERE.)