The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

It's that time of the year, the time that has been described as "the most wonderful time of the year" and the "happiest season of all". Normally, I would be in agreement with both of those phrases. This year? I am struggling to get into the Christmas spirit. 

I have known since losing Anna that this would be the hardest holiday. That we could get through Thanksgiving. We could get through the anniversaries of her death (although those are pretty hard too). But I knew Christmas would be hard. Christmas was the one time a year that we had so many traditions the 4 of us as a family. And a lot of these traditions involved things Anna and I did together. I couldn't imagine doing this holiday without her. And yet... here we are. Celebrating Christmas without her. 

I wish so badly that we spent the night together Christmas Eve night, like we do every year. That we would wake up in the morning and see what Santa left us. That we would be together. 

It doesn't help that when I think of last Christmas, which turned out to be our last Christmas together, I am filled with regret. For whatever reason, I was crabby and grumpy when we were decorating our Christmas tree together. I didn't take the time to be thankful for these memories or to appreciate the fact that we were all together. On Christmas Eve, Anna and I always spent the night together in my room. We didn't have slumber parties very often, so this was one of my favorite traditions. Last year, we got in a fight... over what to watch on TV. If you spent much time with the two of us, this wasn't surprising at all. Not only did we fight a lot, but we also fought over the TV a lot; it was just something that was hard for us to agree on for whatever reason. I don't remember the details, but she got frustrated and went to bed... in her room. And I was too stubborn to say I'm sorry so she would come sleep in mine like usual. 

What I would give to have a do-over on that night... if she would come back, I would let her watch whatever she wanted on TV. I hate myself for fighting over such a petty, stupid thing. Do I think that she spent every night after that thinking "God my sister is such a bitch" or "she ruined christmas"? No, not at all. Anna and I fought, but we were also really good at getting over it and moving on quickly. That one fight (or any of our fights) didn't define our relationship. I know that. But it hurts to think that was my last chance to carry on these traditions with her and I ruined it. 

Last Christmas, we just found out that Anna had relapsed and that she would need chemo again. The future was so unknown, but we didn't stop hoping. However, it wasn't far from my mind that Anna was sick. I remember laying in bed that night, already regretting our fight, and thinking "this could be our last Christmas together...". But just as quickly as the thought entered my mind, I made it go away. "That's not going to happen," I reassured myself, trying to make the feeling of panic go away. "She's going to be fine." How badly I wish that were true... 

I miss her. I miss our traditions. I miss the way Christmas used to be. But I know that Anna wouldn't want us to spend our holiday being sad. She never wanted anyone to be sad. And as hard as it was, I did it. I made it through the holiday that I didn't want to happen. 

Did I wake up on Christmas morning and think about what I would be doing if Anna were still here? Yes. Did I wish that we were sitting at the top of our stairs together, waiting to be given the "ok" to see what Santa left us? Yes. But, I did it. I didn't spend the whole day feeling sad. I didn't dwell on what was or what could've been had things turned out differently (well, not much anyway). Instead, I counted my blessings. I was thankful to be spending the day with my family, both immediate and extended and our friends who are like family. 

Although I would have liked to learn these lessons an easier way, I have learned so much from losing Anna. I truly appreciate all the relationships I have in my life and I do my best not to take moments for granted. I took last Christmas for granted, and now I regret it. Was I in a great mood the whole time this Christmas? No! Did I have my moments where I was less than in the Christmas spirit? Absolutely. But would I have appreciated all these moments before? I don't know. 

I found this poem on another blog awhile ago, and saved it for this specific holiday. There are a lot of versions of this poem and a lot of similar poems out there, but this one gave me a lot of comfort because I feel like it is exactly what Anna would say if she could talk to us.

My First Christmas in Heaven

I see the countless Christmas trees
around the world below
With tiny lights like Heaven's stairs,
reflecting in the snow.

The sight is so spectacular,
please wipe away the tear,
For I am spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs
that people hold so dear,
But the sounds of music can't compare
with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you,
the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description,
to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me,
I see the pain inside your heart.
But I am not so far away,
We really aren't apart.

So be happy for me, dear ones,
You know I hold you dear.
And be glad I'm spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift,
from my heavenly home above,
I sent you each a memory
of my undying love.

After all, love is a gift
more precious than pure gold.
It was always most important
in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other,
as my Father said to do.
For I can't count the blessings or love
He has for each of you.

So have a Merry Christmas and
wipe away that tear.
Remember, I am spending Christmas
with Jesus Christ this year.

I know that Anna is up in heaven smiling because she is pain free, she's experiencing so many awesome things and because she's proud of us for not only being strong but continuing to live out her legacy. 
Anna and I at Christmas Eve dinner last year in our matching pajamas :)

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