The Holiday Season is a time for joy and togetherness celebrating good health, loving on family, and the end to another wonderful year. Most mark this season as their favorite but for so many others, this season can be the toughest to wade through as the reminders of missing loved ones become harder and harder to ignore. Finding ways to remember your loved ones and celebrate the impact they had in your life can help make the sting of the holidays a little less painful.
Missing piece aspect aside, it is so hard for me to ignore my daughter’s absence during the holidays because it is also the season of her birth. Our daughter was born right after Thanksgiving in 2018. We actually skipped our usual family reunion that year (first time ever) because I was due to go into labor at any time. Because her death was so unexpected, we chose to do an autopsy in hopes to find some answers, which meant it took almost a month before we actually got to bring her home to be with us. As I sit down to write this today, I am reflecting on the fact that today is the 3rd anniversary of her being cremated and finally being laid to rest in her urn. Four days before Christmas, she finally came home.
This year there is a lot more excitement in our home for the holidays than years prior. While this isn’t the twins’ first Christmas, it is the first one where they are aware of the fun that is happening. We spend evenings enjoying Christmas lights throughout the neighborhood, they got to meet Santa for the first time, they *helped* decorate the Christmas tree and continue to *help* every. single. day. (hahaha thank goodness for plastic ornaments!), we snuggle up and watch the classics, we admire Finley’s special Christmas tree, and we all went and had some fun playing hide and seek at a local Christmas tree farm! Every one of these moments with Patrick and Teagan is absolutely magical and I am cherishing all of these firsts for the four of us. Because of them, I have been so much more in the spirit of Christmas than I have ever been before. As I soak in the fresh feelings through this stage of motherhood, I am also painfully aware of every one of these moments that I have missed with Finley.
For the past two years I have tried to find ways to include Finley in our holiday celebrations. Every year since that first Christmas she finally came home to us, I have put up a small, white Christmas tree that is decorated in pink, silver and white. It displays our most cherished ornaments, the ones that the nurses in the hospital made with her handprints and footprints as well as some of the thoughtful ones that were gifted to us in honor of her that year. We light it every night and the twins amazingly seem to understand how special it is and know that is a tree we do not touch, we only admire.
My favorite way we have included her this year was when we went to the Christmas tree farm and played. It was actually cold outside for Florida (upper 40s! wow!) which really made it feel Christmassy out. The twins chased each other and their silly Daddy all around the trees and played lots of peekaboo.
We planned on taking their Christmas pictures so I brought Finley’s framed picture along too so we could get a picture with all three of our babies together. The twins love looking at her and Teagan was happy to hold on to her sister. In all honesty, this was my favorite day this Christmas, especially after having a lot of mental struggles as the fall season, Finley's season, set in. We were exploring outside in the chilly air, smelling the scent of pine, and spending time together as a family.
I really never considered all three of my children playing together that day and I assumed I would get a snap or two of them holding Finley's framed picture and it would be done. Instead, we all laughed and played and had so much fun together, as a family of five. I was snapping pictures while giggling through happy tears.
Here it was, a morning I had only dreamed of. An absolutely imperfect holiday moment on a bitterly, chilly morning. Imperfect, because our oldest daughter is dead, but all things considered, it was as perfect as I could have ever hoped for. That was the closest I will ever get to all three of my babies playing together during our family Christmas traditions. It made my mama heart as whole as it’s ever been since losing her. Every time I look at these pictures it makes me start laughing all over again. I can hear the delighted squeals and the belly laughs from my babies as Daddy runs around like a goofball, making all of us crack up.
She was there with us in every way she could be and it made for a perfect family morning.
One of the newest ways we included Finley in our Christmas festivities this year was through charity. A seemingly small, yet painful aspect of Christmas is not being able to shop for her favorite toys, wrap her gifts in colorful papers and watch her excitedly open her presents on Christmas morning. So this year, we decided to start a new tradition of giving by sponsoring a local foster child in honor of Finley. We worked with Christmas for Fosters, which is run by an incredible group of volunteers who place each sponsor with a local foster family. We were able to specify that we hoped to sponsor a little girl who would be about the same age as Finley. They gave us a wish list from our little sweetie with a little bit of info about her interests and personality too. The twins helped me pack all of her items up this year to deliver to the volunteers. I am looking forward to the lessons they will learn through this tradition in the years to come as we honor their sister by giving another child a happy Christmas morning. Next year I hope they can help me pick out the gifts too!
During Christmas For Foster's first event in 2016, they had 45 foster families covered by their sponsorship program. This year they had over 480 foster children in the West Florida Program alone taken care of! If you are looking for a way to give back during the holidays, please check out their program.
Wishing everyone all the peace, love and happiness this holiday season ♥ Merry Christmas!