Friday, December 12, 2008

Stockings and Cookies

Joe-Gi died just after Christmas time, and spent his final Christmas on this earth in a drug induced coma on a ventilator at the hospital. We still had words of hope from the doctors at that point, and we kept his wrapped gifts and his stocking, praying for the day he would be able to wake up and breathe on his own again and he could open all of his gifts, which were plentiful, sent from across the globe by people who read my journal online and were moved by his heroic journey. Sadly, he died on January 10th and never got to open any of his gifts. One of the most painful tasks after his death was unwrapping all the things meant for him and deciding what to do with them. Most of them we donated back to the hospital children's ward. I never could, though, bring myself to unpack his stocking. Several months after he died, I got the strength to gather up his things and put them all into a giant Rubbermaid container to be moved into the new house Joe and I bought together. I wasn't ready to put them out of sight though, and that container has lived in our bedroom until recently, when, with the renovations going on, it was moved into the garage to be sealed up tight and taken up to the attic for storage.

Nick asked for Joseph's stocking this week. He is playing in a holiday concert with the orchestra at school today and they are going to hang stockings off of their music stands, and Nick wanted to bring and hang Joseph's, in memory of him. My immediate response was to say no. What if something happened to it? Nick isn't the most responsible guy on the planet, and what if he forgot it at school or lost it? But as the week went on, I decided to let him take it. He has his own grief journey to work through, and for me to be protective of Joseph's things as if they belong only to me and my own path to healing would be wrong. I vaguely knew I had never emptied out his stocking and that I would have to do so in order to give it to Nick to take.

So I did this last night, prior to our annual cookie decorating with their father. It was so bittersweet, reaching in and finding the things that he would be way outgrown in appetite for now, presumably anyway. A huge package of temporary tattoos. Curled up crazy straws. Bouncy superballs. Down at the toe I found a package of gum that he liked, still unopened. A black stocking cap with some cool, bad-ass design on the front. And I found two gift cards people had sent him that I had forgotten about, one to Kohl's and one to Old Navy. I left all but the gift cards and the gum in his box and brought the stocking in for Nick, Joseph's name embroidered on the front. It was not the same kind of sorrowful as I dealt with Joseph's gifts. I probably did that too soon after his death and should have allowed myself to wait. This was not nearly the impact of pain that was, just a misty, blue missing him. I'll get his brothers something with the gift cards, or donate them to the families we have adopted at Cooper Clinic for the season. And Nick can display Joseph's stocking at his concert today and have his big brother in his heart as he plays. We've all got our path to walk. I know that Joseph would approve.

As we sat down to dinner as a family prior to decorating cookies, Come Sail Away came on the radio. Stewart and I exhanged looks, smiles and felt his slender fingers stroke our hearts. He's always with us.

After dinner we decorated Christmas cookies, like we have every year, using my Mom's old recipes. We laughed a lot and had a lot of fun, though I had to put my foot down at one point to stop them from making zombie teddy bears and snowmen designed to look like they were vomiting or "have the plague"...their words..... Not quite the festive look I was going for, but there are a few of those in there. Hopefully either nobody looks at them too closely....or that they have a sense of humor if they do. Is hard to get young boys concerned with making things pretty. It was a warm and wonderful evening.

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