Christmas Present

Christmas Past is filled with cherished memories of when our family was whole. But now our little family is facing a new normal… Christmas Present.

It seems especially cruel that we lost Brooke so close to a holiday she so dearly loved. But Dixie, our Elf on the Shelf, still surprises us every day with her creative new hiding places. The Advent Calendar counts down the days,  and Blake gets his daily dose of breakfast chocolate – just as he and Brooke always did. Christmas is coming, whether we want it to our not. And it’s coming without Brooke, as is everything from now on.

So our Christmas Present is to figure out how to keep Brooke with us during this holiday and all holidays. She is and always will be part of our family. For one, we will hang her stocking and I have a feeling that Santa will leave her just a little something to let us all know that he loves children in heaven.

But the tree is tricky,  since most of our ornaments are from Christmas Past, made by their little hands to mark the passing of each year and their growing artistry. There are messy hand prints and photos and paintings and pictures. Poems and promises about how I’ll look back on these trinkets with joy one day. But those poems were meant for when she was grown, not gone forever at age 11.

I can’t go there yet. I can’t unwrap the ornaments that we wrapped together as we took down the tree last year… putting them away and saying what we always say… “I wonder what next year will be like for us when we take them out again? ” Never, in my wildest dreams – or nightmares –  did I think we’d be doing this as a family of three.

Christmas Present is nothing I ever could have imagined. But somehow we’ll make it through. Somehow we’ll find joy in the fact that Brooke’s spirit is bigger and brighter than any Christmas spirit can ever be. So shine brightly,  my sweet, beautiful, angel princess. Shine your light on your family and help us make it through this holiday and the all the days ahead.

 

Gone, But Never Forgotten

Someone took the purple ribbons down in the middle of the night. It wasn’t anyone who put them up, it wasn’t the city (unless they work overtime). It was most likely some crabby person who got sick of being reminded of the  fact that an innocent little girl died for no apparent reason. It was probably someone who didn’t want to think of unpleasant things during the holiday season. Whoever it was, I hope they never have to meet this mean Mama Bear who will tell them how heartless it is to take down something that is meaningful to a little boy who lost his sister and best friend.

Those ribbons. My son said that they made him feel like people cared. They made him feel like people still remembered Brooke. While I knew they had to come down one day, I felt that we should at least have some say in when they did. I even thought that perhaps it would haven been therapeutic for us to remove a few ourselves. Maybe with a some of the same good people who put them up. But that will never happen because some coward took them down in the dark. And that person probably doesn’t even know us.

Blake didn’t notice they were down today when I took him to school. It’s likely he will when I pick him up this afternoon. I’ve been thinking all day about what to tell him and I’ve come up with this:

Those ribbons were put up to show us how much people cared about Brooke, and continue to care about our family. I still see ribbons on those trees, and I always will. But I see more. I see kindness in the faces of our friends and neighbors. To me, it’s like they are all wearing big purple ribbons. Forever.

 

 

 

Four Weeks

Saturdays were always busy in the Randle house. Brooke with dance rehearsals and Blake with the sport of the season. Today was opening day for basketball and, with Brenn as assistant coach, both boys were up and out for a morning practice followed by a game later in the day.

From the moment I woke up, I wondered how we would make it through something so normal when it most certainly was not. Our lives have literally been cut in “half” now that we are without Brooke. But rationally, the remaining half needs every bit of us  – maybe even more  –  so I made a big breakfast for my boys and sent them off to practice. Cleaning and laundry were supposed to happen, but I took some coveted time alone to reach out to friends. There are so many phone calls to return and I remain compelled to tell the story again and again. Somehow it helps me process things and make sense out of something so senseless.

All the while, I kept my eye on the clock recalling what was happening four weeks ago:

8:45 a.m- that was the time we placed the 911 call

9:30 a.m.- numerous frantic calls and texts as we tried to find childcare for Blake and tell family members to get to the hospital.

Saturdays – mornings in particular – will never be the same,  yet we have to go on. Brenn is so much better at it than I – at least he pretends to be. But somehow, we made it through.

The basketball game was a nail biter and we won in the final seconds. It provided a great distraction for others so the hugs and “I’m so sorrys” were minimal. Blake had a play date after the game and Brenn and I made a trip to Costco. We made a lovely dinner and played a few games of cards with my brother who is still with us and providing much support.

Just a regular Saturday. Until it’s time for bed. And just like every night, the wave hits hard. It crashes down and it screams, “Nothing is regular and it never will be again. Your daughter is gone forever.”

I walk Dudley up and down the street crying softly, looking up at the stars  and saying her name over and over again because I love the sound of her name and I miss saying it. “Brooke, Brooke, Brooke.” Dudley’s ears pick up each time. He’s looking for her, too.

My boys are already snuggled in our big bed and I kiss them and hold on tight to them both. Sleep comes so easily to them and that is a true relief. I doze for a bit and return the sofa… to read, to write, to ramble.

Four weeks. Seems like yesterday and seems like forever. Sweet Angel Brooke, I miss you more each and every minute.