For the last 3 years, I have spent the weeks leading up to Christmas searching online for the best toys for Zack to not only bring joy to his life, but to help him develop a new skill! I spent hours last year, ordering the accessories and bedding for what would have been his Elmo Room. I bought the perfect comforter, wall stickers and even a personalized pillowcase (that would be later used for the pillow of his casket). Our other boys could clearly tell us what they would like for Christmas, but I felt such excitement and stress making sure that I picked what Zack would want, as he couldn't tell me.
Everything is hard these days.
I've kept shopping to a minimum...for so many reasons this year. Instead, we have chose a few special toys and I made Ty and Jayden each a photo album all about them. I wanted them to have a place to go to see themselves as babies and little boys as well as a place to see our memories with Zack. I made each boy a special page of photos of them with Zack. It was so emotionally draining to go through these photos, but I know it will be something that they will cherish. I reviewed a page with Ty and he started to cry. "Maybe Zack died because I wasn't a good brother". My heart broke, as I went through all of the amazing photos in which Zackie was looking up at his big brother with adoring eyes. I explained that if he ever questioned that again, all he needed to do was look at these photos to see how much he was loved by Zack. While I knew this might be hard to see now, I know that both boys will need a place to go to see their memories with Zack. I made pages of Christmases in the past with presents, stockings and the usual Christmas morning chaos. I included photos of my three sons with Santa....with the glaring reality that this year's photo has just two of my boys.
Christmas was also the time when I became even more aware than usual, of the great miracle that was Zack's life. He truly has always been an example of God's best work and of His power to create miracles on earth. Each Christmas I would buy a special ornament for the tree, that would remind us of that; "Hope", "Miracle", "Believe" or "Faith". For it was these traits that got us through each year. We need those more than ever now, but I just can't bring myself to look at those decorations.
I have always been a huge lover of all things Christmas! The radio in my car would be tuned to the all Christmas station on December 1st and I would bug Paul to always get the lights and the tree out long before it was necessary. Our tree was so incredibly meaningful; ornaments given to me a child, given to the boys, ornaments that I helped put on my grandfather's tree the year after my grandmother died and of course special decorations from our own family trips. This year, I can't listen to any Christmas song that used to make me dance and sing and I struggled to even open the decorations for Christmas but put out the minimum required to allow the boys to feel that we had "decorated". There is no tree this year. Paul and I just can't put up the tree and include all of the ornaments with Zack' name. Our amazing boys seem to understand.
We also had a difficult decision to make to avoid as much tradition as we could this year, and we've decided to go to Chicago for a few days at Christmas. I think we felt that doing Christmas the way it has always been done, in a year that is so incredibly different, would be horribly sad. Paul has planned such a fun and family oriented trip, with skating, tree lighting at the Chicago Zoo and even Christmas baking with the chef at the hotel! Now we are counting down the days until we can just spend some much needed family time, just the 4 of us together, reflect on the year, laugh a little, cry a little and feel Zackie's presence in our Christmas Day.