Christmas came and went without Donnie. I won’t lie, it was tough. Christmas Eve I worked half the day. As I was driving home, the thought of spending Christmas without Donnie overwhelmed me. I broke down. I cried all the way home. I got home and pulled out a video of us and Courtney and I sat down to watch it. And we both cried. I miss him and wanted to see him. On Christmas Eve Donnie and I never had any plans with our own family, so we would spend Christmas Eve with our friends families. They were our extended family. I couldn’t bring myself to go this year without him. I couldn’t go because he was supposed to be there. I think it would have been too difficult.
That just shines a huge spotlight on the fact that he isn’t there.
Christmas morning we got up and I made the breakfast that Donnie always made for us. Now honestly, I don’t think mine was as good as his but it was ok. I will say Caley helped to keep our spirits light. It was a joy to watch her opening her presents and handing out presents. She was soooo excited. At the same time there was a heaviness upon me. He was supposed to be there and it just didn’t feel right without him.
The kids had been upset with the thought of me cleaning out Donnie’s closet. I think that they wanted everything to stay exactly the same as it was. I understand that. Cleaning out is acceptance that he is gone and not coming home. It isn’t an easy thought to process in my grieving heart. I found a company that made Tshirt quilts. I went thru his closet and picked shirts for each child a quilt. I picked each shirt for each quilt with care. Donnie and Courtney had LSU matching shirts, so she got his. Same thing with Justin and Shantel had her favorites. Each shirt told a story about Donnie to that child. They also screen printed a picture onto each quilt. I picked my favorite picture of each of them with Donnie. Justin’s was a picture of he and Donnie, playing pool. Shantel’s was them parasailing last summer. And Courtney’s was a picture of her and Donnie in their matching shorts. She was 3. Just a pair of striped athletic shorts. Courtney loved them. Every time that Donnie wore his, she had to wear hers. She loved that they matched. I have kept those shorts all of these years and they are sewed into the quilt next to the picture of her and Donnie. These quilts were their Christmas gifts from me.
I waited until all of their other presents were opened and gave them to the kids last. I can only say it was quite the tear fest as they opened them. All of the Donnie stories attached to the shirts were revisited. I think it is the most precious gift I could have ever given them. It made him feel closer to us on that first Christmas without him. In a way, he was there with us in those stories and those shirts and our tears. We all cried but the kids were so happy to have those. It is a part of Donnie that they can always keep and take with them wherever they go. When they are missing him, they can curl up in these blankets and have Donnie all around them. I was so glad that I found the company that made them. I haven’t made myself one, but I think I will.
I have been dreading Christmas for months. I knew it would be so very hard and it was. But somehow I managed to make it thru. There are days that I think that there is no possible way that I will ever get past this raging grief inside me and on other days I feel just a small ray of hope fighting towards that grief. I just keep telling myself that it will take time. But somehow, some way, someday, I hope and pray that I will stop “just surviving” and truly start living again. One day………