Managing the Memories of Christmas Past

The holidays don’t come easy for everyone.  Moms are, in my experience, particularly sensitive to this.  For many, the stress of the holidays ratchet up as we get closer and closer to Thanksgiving.  

When do we put up the tree?  Who’s house are we going to for Christmas? How can we avoid seeing [Insert Weird Relative here]?  WHERE DID I STASH THE DANG ELF OF THE SHELF LAST YEAR. 

In the midst of Christmas stress, I am bombarded by the past few years of Christmas memories.  Just a few years ago, we watched the calendar tick closer to Christmas in a tiny hospital room. Our daughter, Hannah, Cancer Conquerer and then 3 year old, had just had extensive surgery.  They removed cancerous lymph nodes very close to her heart and an important bunch of nerves (brachial plexus).  The surgery was successful but it had damaged her lymph node system, causing something called a chyle leak. This leak meant that Hannah’s chest tube had to stay in until the leak was fixed, and she was not able to eat for weeks (her body got its nutrition via TPN, or nutritions and fat put directly into her blood stream, bypassing the digestive system).  

We were all a mess.  It was Christmas time, and we were stuck in the hospital.  I could not give my children the holiday experience that I thought they deserved.  One child, stuck in a hospital bed hooked up to tubes, another stuck at home without his mom.  We tried to decorate the hospital room, but nothing could replace the feeling of getting ready for the holidays at home.  I felt defeated as a parent.  

Hannah in her hospital room, just days before Christmas.

Finally, it was Christmas Eve morning, and I had resigned to the fact that we were going to face another holiday in a hospital room.  Hannah had endured a second surgery to try to fix the leak, and it was successful, but she was still being monitored and on a specially formulated diet administered through her g-tube. Our doctor came in and told us that he wanted us to stay a few more days to keep an eye on her.  And then… he told us he was KIDDING.  And that he was sending us home.  I have never wanted to punch someone and hug them so much, at the same time.  We have never packed up our stuff so quickly and headed for home.  Home for the Holidays. 

Our house was a mess, but our hearts were so happy to be together.  Our living room was FULL of presents, thanks to the community who loves our family.  We spent all morning huddled on the floor, enjoying having the whole family together.  It was the best gift that anyone has ever given us. Plus, we were in jammies all. day. long.  And that’s the memory that I try to focus on each time the holidays come around again.  It’s not about what’s under the tree or who does the best Elf on the Shelf poses (not me), but the precious time we have been given as a family.  It gives me purpose during the holidays, to try to remember that the holidays aren’t always easy, but that others made the effort to make our holidays merry in the past, and I need to do the same.  


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