Christmas Eve 2009 provided evidence, small as it may be, that my life is finally stepping forward. I worked more than my normal 15 hours at Sur La Table. If someone was working Christmas Eve day it might as well be me. I volunteered for the holiday shifts, not because I’m working toward a sainthood badge in some religion, but because it just made sense to keep busy and allow those with families time off. My son Ryan was driving in from Overland Park on the 24th, and I knew I would be off work in time to meet him for dinner.
The snow cascaded from White Christmas to blizzard conditions in Nebraska on Christmas Eve day. I continued to glance out the window of the store worrying about Ryan’s morning drive to home. As I worked myself in to a frenzy about his health and well-being, a staff member came and told me a customer needed my help. I rounded the corner to behold my 6’3″ son standing with a big smile. I was so relieve to see him that I combusted into tears. He had come in the night before and wanted to surprise me. Surprised, I was.
On Christmas Eve Ryan picked me up in his monster truck and drove through the first 8″ of snow to his dad’s house. Dann and I have maintained the attitude that we have done two things right in life…Megan and Ryan…and we don’t want to make holidays difficult for Ryan by dividing him up for just a few short days. Dann cooked beef tenderloin, and the three of us had a wonderful time.
We are a long way away from the Christmas Eve of 2006. That was the day we got the phone call that cancer had moved in to Megan’s lungs, and radiation would start on December 26th. There was no holiday respite from cancer. We are also a long way away from Megan’s last Christmas. All I remember of 2007 is that she did not even move out of bed. In 2008, paralyzed by grief , I was the one who didn’t want to move out of bed.
It was progress as a family, too, that in 2009 we talked and laughed about Megan. Dann has found a new hobby in ebay. This was a passion shared by Megan, and now her dad is following in those sacred footsteps. Ryan joked that he would be watching for the day that his dad sold him on ebay. Dann replied that (rest assured) so far you can’t sell live animals or organs on the internet marketplace. My son piped in that he often worried that his sister would sell his soul to the devil via the ebay marketplace had she been given the opportunity. We all laughed. Megan rests in eternity with the Almighty (no joking matter), but it was no joke during her life that if you weren’t using it, she was trying to sell it behind your back. It was may have been the first time I’ve heard Ryan talk about his sister in a humorous way since her death.
Ryan brought me home to my snow covered home, and somewhere in the ten o’clock hour Joe Iovino and I plodded across the street in knee high snow and blowing wind to ring the Santa bells outside the neighbor kid’s bedroom windows. Jennifer said that we looked more like buglars in our black hooded coats than Santa’s helpers, but as Joe and I pressed up against the house and jingled the official sleigh bells, magic rang through the household of true Santa believers. I was doing something this Christmas, other than crying.
Joe walked ahead of me on the way to and from the neighbors, and I shadowed his footsteps. It has been one step at a time since losing our daughter. But this Christmas provided the evidence in the snow, and in my heart, that I’m stepping forward.