More than anything, I still catch myself off guard. A full year has come and gone without James, but I still find myself expecting him. I keep expecting reality to solidify and become made of more predictable fare, that kind that does not give itself to daydreams of toddlers and walking, speaking little boys named James; something to whitewash away memories of cancer and hospital beds, ports and tumors splashed on display screens.
I am surprised at Christmas without him. There is a palpable absence on my list of people to buy gifts for. I find myself looking wistfully at the toy aisles at stores and fighting an irrational desire to purchase a “big boy” toy to take home and put in his room. I wonder what he would have asked for if he could have asked. I wonder all of these things and I miss him terribly, with a sudden and fierce urgency that seems out of place.
The result is a sometimes lukewarm holiday cheer. I am fortunate that I have the love and support of many friends and family members. Caring, even without understanding, is a criminally underrated virtue. Yet I find myself more distant from the festivities than I might otherwise be, because I am experiencing them at a kind of third party remove, not fully committed because I simply cannot embrace them with the energy that I might have reserved for a celebration with James. It is troubling with the absence of one person becomes more important than the presence of another, but with the death of a child this is sometimes unavoidable. The family is not made to function without its parts.
Yet the world goes on. Holidays are celebrated, families grow and the calendar continues its relentless march towards the future. Immediately after James died, through the self-involved and insular lens of my grief, this seemed a great affront. The temerity of the world to continue on without pausing and recognizing how miserable it was without my little boy struck me as terribly unfair. More and more however, I take comfort in it. The world moving on means that there is always hope that good things may also happen. Though it came as a surprise in the first few months after we lost James, they do. The last year, while not without its challenges (James’ anniversary chief among them) brought unexpected joys as well. I have no doubt that the next year will as well. I look forward to those.
I will always miss him. And so, I suppose, I will always be surprised when we cannot do the things together that we would have if he were here. I will not allow that to tarnish the time we had together, and I will continue to cherish the memories we made together. More important than the fact that I will always miss him is that I will always love him. I am not at all surprised by that.
Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.