This article was provided to Share by Meredith Byers.
As I enter this holiday season, I realize that our family’s holiday traditions are not quite like other people’s, at least not anymore. On April 11, 2007, our second son, Samuel Garrison, was stillborn just a week before his scheduled delivery date. Since that day, our lives changed, and our holidays changed as well. I bet that everyone who is reading this newsletter remembers that day when life was no longer the same.
Our oldest son, Wyatt, will be 5 in December. Since losing Samuel, we have been blessed with two more children: Our daughter, Shiloh, is 20 months old, and our new son, Ryder, is 4 months old. Before Samuel graced our lives, holidays were focused around celebrations, food, and the more material things of life. But now, our focus has changed, our emotions have changed, and our family traditions have changed since that unhappy day in April. Thanksgiving was once a day of eating (too much, usually), watching TV, and napping. Now we focus on being thankful for our family members who sit with us around the table– usually just us, without grandparents or cousins--trying not to be bitter about the one who isn’t there (which is selfish, but honest), and recognize that we are truly blessed to have each other, our lives, and our health.
December used to be about shopping, shopping, and more shopping, followed by traveling, gifts, food, and having somewhat of a carefree attitude about life. Now our December is more reflective. In early December we commemorate our lost time with Samuel by attending the candlelight vigil and laying a flower on Samuel’s brick at the Angel of Hope Ceremony in Blanchette Park. This is followed by placing an ornament on the tree at SSM St. Joseph’s Health Center Share ceremony with our friends-in-loss. At home, a special white stocking is labeled “Samuel,” and hangs appropriately next to his siblings’ stockings. The Christmas tree is adorned with butterfly decorations in remembrance of our butterfly. Finally, the best gift that we now give is time, effort, food, and money to deserving organizations such as Share, in Samuel’s memory. Many of the events are bittersweet, and our holiday season is filled with a range of emotions, but we try not to guard these feelings. Instead, we use the events of the season to allow ourselves to grieve, reminisce, and share our love for Samuel with those who know us.
Unfortunately, last December brought another sad day for our family. Our niece, Huntleigh Elizabeth, was born at 23 weeks on December 27, 2008, and died a few hours later. Her twin sister, Ryleigh Ruth, was born just a week later on January 3, 2009, and now is thriving at 10 months. This December, my family will add another bittersweet celebration: The commemoration of Huntleigh’s first birthday and angel-versary, and Ryleigh’s first Christmas with family, but without her sister. Before April 11, 2007, I never imagined celebrating the holidays by holding and hugging some of your children in your arms with the others you can only hold tightly to in your heart.
For me personally, New Year’s Eve is the hardest holiday of all – strange, but true. I think it has to do with ending another year without all the children that I carried for 9 months, which is particularly painful. It is still too hard to celebrate New Year’s Eve with parties and lighthearted fun. Instead Derek and I will probably stay up together, watch the Apple fall, hold each other, and remember the last year with all of its highs and lows before we start a new one.
Do not get me wrong. Our house is filled with smiles and great times, which include us with three innocent, vivacious, and happy children under the age of 5. But losing our Samuel has changed every regular day and holiday in our lives. We hold tight our angel in our hearts and do our best to include him as we celebrate the holiday season with the rest of our family.