This Christmas was always going to be tough for us, as are all the ‘firsts’. Early on, we made a decision to handle Father’s Day, our birthdays, school graduations and now Christmas in exactly the way Jeff would have wanted us to, which has transpired into a situation where we’re leaning into the events, seeking meaning and life-affirmation, rather than moving away from them.
This brings me to last Sunday night, when we had pizza at my sister’s place. When we pulled into our driveway afterwards, we were gob-smacked to find our entire house covered in gorgeous Christmas lights! One of my friends from Kindergarten (in 1979) had thought to do this, along with her sister and a family from our running group. My kindy friend had never even been to our house — they ‘Google Earth’d’ it to work out what lights would suit it best. It was the most surprising, gratitude-filled moment in my life. I will never forget the way it felt. Ever.
This weekend, it was time for us to decorate our tree. We have a tradition where we each take it in turns to choose a ‘theme’ for the tree, which is how we’ve previously ended up with trees covered in boy bands or Star Wars. This year was always going to be Jeff’s turn, so we embraced that and made the tree a tribute to him and all the things he loved — books, music, the Brumbies, cities around the world …
What struck me as we were making the decorations was how passionately he threw himself at life. We found ourselves limited by the size of the tree. There were nowhere near enough branches to accommodate everything Jeff adored, and those things were extremely varied and rich.
He embodied the Hunter S. Thompson quote:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
The extent to which we’ll miss him on the day can’t be articulated. I won’t even try. What I know is that opportunities exist for joy even in the saddest of times, if you let them in. We said months ago that Jeff would turn the light up in our lives, not down, and now our poor, sad house has been lit up in a way that it never has been before, entirely unexpectedly.
I always knew people were beautiful, but it’s only in the last few months that I’ve witnessed just how deeply that beauty can run. How quietly. How generously. My husband’s broken heart set off a domino effect in which my own heart broke and hearts all around me opened. My little boy said this the other night: “You’ve turned my heart into a super heart. A powerful, super, special heart.”
That’s exactly how I feel too, about the impact of the love we’ve received from all around — because, even when your glass is always half full, there are times when you need help turning up the light. And there’s always someone there if you look closely, finding a beautiful new way to do exactly that.
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