So, we made the trip (it's an hour) to the cemetery to say Merry Christmas to daddy and visit with the in-laws. We arrived shortly after 10 to find everyone in Thomas' family that lives in town at the site. We joined in with the gathering to say Merry Christmas to Thomas, but I declined to talk right then.
After that we did a caravan to McDonald's where we had breakfast. Then I took the children to their grandmother's house so they could spend time with her and their cousins.
Once we left there I asked Ariana if she wanted to go back and see daddy before we went home and thankfully as usual, she did. I usually didn't but this time I wanted to go back. I had some stuff to tell him.
We has brought him a bouquet of white roses so I got some pictures of the children there. All because when I started to get sad there talking to him, she started singing to him, which she used to do quite a bit when he wasn't feeling well.
Then, Elijah seemed to be paying attention to where we were so I talked to him about why we were there. Who knew if he had any idea what I was saying, when I said his father loved him, but he had died and this was where he was. When we were about to leave though he stood over the grave and gave a thumb's up sign.
On Christmas Day, we had a nice breakfast, I gave Ariana something out of her stocking, and we went to church. After that, we fulfilled a request to spend some time at my mother's house. We finally got home around 5:00, at which point, I had to get dinner on the table pretty quick. Presents were after that, and after all of the preparation and wrapping, it took about 45 minutes to get into all of the packages. Setting up the toys was not as quick a process. How I could pick so many toys that required Adult Assembly, I'm not sure. They were happy though. Ariana loved everything and was glad to help her brother with his toys. He was a bit overwhelmed. I don't really buy toys during the year, so it was a bit of a shock for him. Several times I saw him trying to play with more than one toy at once. Their faces...that was enough of a gift.
After the New Year rolled in, I found myself thinking about all I had faced in 2011. This was my first full calendar year as a widow. Even though Thomas passed away pretty early in 2010, the part for which he was present was very significant: our son's birth, our 10th anniversary both of those happened in those first couple of months. And thanks to his determination, we also purchased the vehicle I have now.
A lot of things were left to do though. In 2011, I had some major work done on our home's exterior, things a 17 year-old house needs done in most cases, at least in this neighborhood. I started work on the interior of the house. I painted Ariana's bedroom and the room that will be Elijah's room. It's been a pretty emotional process, making some major decisions, and spending that money. It continues to be so as I finish packing Thomas' clothes for donation. Two boxes have gone to the local Men's Correctional Facility like he wanted. But they can't hold it all. I will follow his instructions to donate his clothes. I had so few things I was sure of when he died, but I'm sure of this.
I ventured out into the world with and without my children, but still found the space between them the most comfortable for me. This walk continues to be a roller coaster at times. But at night, and at certain times during the day, I feel a calm. That intense stress of waiting for the next emergency is absent. Constantly facing the possibility of Thomas' death was certainly different than it actually happening; but, even though we miss him, I cannot deny the brutality of his suffering and I cannot wish him back like he was. His love for us, his family and his friends had no limit, but his body was another matter. Many have heard the saying, "A heap see, but a few know." Well, a few really saw and a few really knew what happened at home, what he endured...what I endured...what Ariana endured. Our original prognosis was 2007 and he made it to 2010. I'll always be grateful for that, especially when I look at my son. We'll always miss him; but he's safe now, and I feel we can make it.
My daughter told me, "We just have to stick together no matter what. We have a great family still, the Lord is so worthy (of praise)." She's right. That's what we have done. I stuck with Thomas and he stuck with me until he was done. My children and I have our challenges, but that is what we will do. God has been loving, kind, merciful, patient and faithful. When talking to my pastor's wife she mentioned I still had a smile. I thought of my amazing children. I realize though what that look really is. It's peace. As challenging as this life is at times, I have confidence in God's plan. I know He loves us and intends for us survive and thrive.
In 2012, I want to love God better. He gave us life, gave Thomas rest, restored my faith, and made me dream again. I've seen His healing power in our lives. He's given us good people around us, and makes it all happen here, sometimes (when I'm under the sadness) with little cooperation from me. It's been hard, but I'm still standing. I've laughed, cried, asked why again and again. But I am finding out what I'm made of along the way. I'm a survivor.