I have made my children ornaments for Christmas since they were little. I started the tradition that I would make them one each year and when they got married, they would take the ornaments with them and start their own family tree. So, when it comes time to decorate the tree, we divide up the ornaments into six different piles and then everyone puts their own ornaments on the tree. I always write on the back to tell them I love them and put their age and the year.
Last year, we couldn’t put up a tree. Losing Laney was still too close to our hearts and so we didn’t even bother. It was all we could do to get a present for the kids. This year, things are a little softer, so we were ready to try and put the tree up, as well as the stockings I had made the kids years ago.
Only I didn’t expect the emotion that came with it. It is always harder when I am not expecting it. We decided not to put the ornaments in piles, so I just started putting them on the tree. I was happily hanging ornaments when I ran into one that made me smile. Until I turned it over and the memories came flooding back. It was one I had given to Laney when she was 4 years old. It was a polar bear. I remember her picking it out of my tole painting book.
Then as I hung up the stockings, I pulled Laney’s out and started to cry. I vividly remember sitting with all of the kids while they picked material out of my material box so I could make them each a stocking. Laney insisted on hers being different. And it was. Just like her.
My kids give each other a present for Christmas every year. They still give one to Laney, too. Because Laney loved service so much, we have decided to each give Laney the present of doing service for someone else. We then write what we did on a card and put it in a treasure box where we will look at them every year at Christmas.
Christmas has changed for us. It is more about each other and less about what we get. The kids are more excited about their service and what they are giving to others. I think we are gonna make it through another Christmas missing Laney.
I am not going to lie. The last couple of months have been pretty rough. I will admit that I have struggled to look life in the eye and stare it down. A few days ago, I had the chance to talk to a man that I see at work every once in a while. He helped me to see things a little differently. I don’t even know his name.
This man told me that he lost a 3 year old brother. He shared with me how his mom feels about losing her little boy. That although time had allowed the pain of the loss to fade, become softer, her heart still remembers her little boy. It has been 50 years. This man told me that his mom likes to think about the loss like this: It is like having a drawer in her dresser full of all the memories of her son. Everything is tucked away in this drawer. Sometimes, she pulls the drawer out and goes through the things. Then she shuts the drawer again and goes on with her life. The drawer is always there to open when she needs to. There when she has to pull out those memories for a little while. She knows where they are. And when she needs to open that drawer, everything will still be there.
Laney, Kaden & Alyssa on a trip to Gettysburg
I really like that analogy. It expresses how I feel with amazing accuracy. I have to put my thoughts and memories away. If I didn’t, I would be a mess. A puddle on the floor. But I am not going to lie. Today, I opened that drawer. And she was right. Everything is still there.
I have been thinking a lot about my dad the last week or so. This week, on November 28th, he will have been gone for 2 years. It kind of hit me yesterday. A memory of my dad that made me smile. And makes me proud. You see, my dad was a veteran. He served two tours in Vietnam. Of course, I was just a very little girl, so I don’t remember much of that. One thing I do remember, though, is his footlocker.
Footlocker similar to the one my dad owned
Seems like a strange thing to remember, right? I remember that he had his green footlocker with our last name stenciled on it. He always kept important papers in it after he retired. Saturday, I was at our local good will (In UT,we call it Deseret Industries) and ran across someone’s awful attempt to paint one of those footlockers. It was fortunate for me because I picked it up for $6. There was no way that I could go back to the army green color, nor would I want to. So I painted it black. And then distressed it.
My dad had Alzheimer’s. He was only 73 when he passed away two years ago. I had the privilege to be his main caretaker for the last six months before he died. One thing that he always remembered was that he was in the military. He loved serving his country. He loved being a military man. I have always wanted his personal footlocker. It still contains his important things. Like his pictures and his important papers. But I will take the one that is just like it, and remember him every time I look at it.
So this post is in memory of my dad. Missing him very much this week. I will always treasure that time I had to serve my dad.