the first christmas

Time is divided into B.C and A.D times. Yup that pretty much sums it up. Before cancer and after death. This is our first Christmas in this new era.

Two down.. one to go. This afternoon we head to my parents for our final Christmas “celebration.” I used to love this time of year. Looked forward to it and did my very best to absorb all of it. This month leading up to it though was filled with a dread.. A heavy cloud of grief that got heavier and heavier as the month went on.

Until about 2 days before Christmas, then my body said.. nope. Thats enough of that. And my emotions got completely locked outside of me. Christmas Eve I felt like I was having a out of body experience. I felt totally drunk.. although I was completely sober.. my face even felt a little numb.

And then I understood .. why the 2nd and 3rd year are often so much harder for bereaved parents.. my guess is the body doesn’t refuse the emotions anymore. It feels.. to the depths. I didn’t cry very often at all. It was honestly shocking.

After cancer.. but before death..
After cancer.. but before death..

I did a few times. I cracked and the sorrow crept out.. or in.. Not quite sure which way it flowed. And it was horrible. A despair .. a black hole of agony .. frankly so much worse than my worries of it. When we had our dinnertime thankful prayers.. mine was for a body that knows what I can handle.. And I meant it. Totally and completely.

Christmas eve was at my sisters. A few of us started a tradition 3 years ago. We do our own prayer service there. It has been absolutely perfect each year.. this one being no exception.

The candle part of our service. The boys decorated one for sissy.
The candle part of our service. The boys decorated one for sissy.
Jennifer would have loved getting her dressed up. I bet they would have matched.
Jennifer would have loved getting her dressed up. I bet they would have matched.

Setting up for Santa was one of those moments. Toys for only 3 children.

3 children.

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..but we have 4..?bc15

It was like my mind couldn’t comprehend it.. like my mind knew my eyes were playing tricks on me. We did have Santa give our family a gift in honor of Jennifer. A board game we can all play.. together. Because the thing she loved the most.. more than glitter or princesses or clothes was us. Being with us. And a super hero cape with a J on it. He gave one to all 4 kids.. because they are truly heroes. In all different ways… they have save us, me and their Daddy.

Christmas morning.. we were all thrown off. Nobody knew exactly what to do.. how to line up.. what their jobs were. She was the leader.. follower1

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Jonathan took her job. Lead the kids to the nativity scene with baby Jesus in his hands. And told the other kids why we celebrate Christmas. And we added in a new tradition. We lit a candle together and Nicholas carried it out to where the stockings were..

Nicholas walked so slowly and carefully with her candle.
Nicholas walked so slowly and carefully with her candle.

 

Watching them then.. opening and sharing with each other was another moment.. the dark started to ooze. I looked around at them. Happy. Enjoying their presents. Forgetting the missing link.

Jennifer

goofing off picture before opening presents
Goofing off picture before opening presents..

 

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..that turned into this.

Oh how it hurt. To see them ok.. when we weren’t. To see them smiling with the joy we so wanted for them. When we had none. I had nothing really. I was pretty void of all emotions yesterday. It seems my body couldn’t refuse the ugly and allow the beauty.

I am ok with that.

Jonathan stepped into the role of the oldest.. Excited looked at what his younger siblings had.  Helped them open boxes or notice what they had missed. Just like she did. I loved him for it. So much. And I wanted him to stop it. So much.

I don’t want him to be the oldest.. I want her to.

I remember talking with Tony once.. not sure at what point in her journey it was.. that he would be our eldest. Tony got very mad at me for that. Swore he never would be.. that we would always treat him like the second born. But that’s not possible.. he is the oldest living child in our home.

I don’t want him to be the oldest.. I want her to.  But nobody asked me.

Her favorite gift last year. A CC (aka seahorse for babies) All of the younger siblings had one so she wanted one too.
Her favorite gift last year. A CC (aka seahorse for babies) All of the younger siblings had one so she wanted one too.

The gift of cancer. Of DIPG. It was the knowledge. Jennifer and I shopped for her siblings. Made presents too with her Fairy. I liked that. I liked that I was able to give them all things from her. I wonder what it will be like when those are all gone? Will I do it in her honor?

I don’t know.

Santa gave JLK baby supplies.They are still in her room, Charlotte plays with them all the time.
Santa gave JLK baby supplies.They are still in her room, Charlotte plays with them all the time.

I feel like I should feel badly for hurting when they didn’t. Actually for hurting when they didn’t.  

We put a lot of thought into the holiday. To try to make it special and full of joy for them. I didn’t realize how hard that would be for me. To succeed. Because the truth is. Its really only our worlds that completely stopped spinning when her heart stopped beating. Tony and I. Part of us died February 12th.

We hung out the rest of the day. We gave the kids a few options, but they voted to stay home. Just us. We were more than happy to oblige.

The last thing we did though.. Jonathan asked to make videos. Usually that means silly stuff. Playing around with the slow motion feature .. But last night was different. He wanted to be a director. He gave us all lines. I considered sharing the video.. but not today. It’s too intimate.

My favorite picture from Christmas. The only one with all the loves of my life in it.
My favorite picture from Christmas. The only one with all the loves of my life in it.

take one

Mommy: Jennifer died from kids cancer.

Nicholas: My sister is in heaven

Daddy: Jennifer was 6 years old. 

take two-

Mommy (speaking for Charlotte): Jennifer loves us and misses us.

Daddy: Jennifer was supposed to live a long time.

Nicholas: Not all kids die from cancer.

*********************************************************************************************************************

And then I remembered. Why we tried so hard to make it a positive day for them. Because knowing how they hurt.. how they ache for their sister is horrible. Having to watch and only be able to try to support them as they struggle with finding a understanding with what happened to her.. its such a helpless feeling.

They love their sister. But they love Christmas also. Their world got flipped. The spin is a whole different one.. But its still spinning. .. wobbling at times, but spinning. For the kids, I think its more like part of their childhood ended.. and the rest of it changed forever. But I hope.. I think .. I pray.. all of them is still alive. Badly bruised but still alive.  please. please. please.

i miss you jennifer lynn

but i want to thank you

for teaching them

and me

how to love so deeply.

you are worth it

this pain

for all of us

you are worth it.

bcfinal..until there is a cure..

 

 

21 Responses to “the first christmas”

  1. I thought of you often on Christmas Eve. I said a prayer for peace for strength … for whatever might help you. I talked to Jennifer. I asked her to be with you.
    Hugs and love ♡

  2. Hi Libby,
    I haven’t posted in awhile but I wanted to let you know that I am STILL HERE, reading every word you type. i thought of you and your entire family on Christmas, wondering how you were all doing. Thank you again for sharing. I am praying and thinking of you all everyday. Gob Bless you Kranz Family. So so much love 4 JLK…Always!

  3. All I can do is hope you find peace in this tough time. I know for sure you still have rough roads ahead. I hope and pray for times of joy and calmness in between it all. Best wishes that the tough times start to balance out more a bit with the happy times.

  4. I have prayed extra hard for all of you this past few weeks and asked Jennifer to stand by your side for comfort. What a beautiful family you have and the pic of Charlotte is adorable.

  5. Beautiful family I myself love the picture with all your love ones in it God bless you and your beautiful family I know Jennifer is very proud of her family.

  6. There are 2 special girls I will always think of at Christmas. 1 is Polly Klaas who was taken too soon by an evil man. Her Dad went on to help many other lost kids in her honor. And of course JLK. I remember her being the Grand Marshall in the Christmas parade. Now her beautiful family is also helping other kids in her honor.

  7. I thought of all of you and especially Jennifer this Christmas. I thought about how hard it must be but I also thought a lot about her infectious smile. We didn’t rush through one second of the day because every time I saw her beautiful smile in my mind it reminded me of how lucky I was to be where I was and to savor every second. Sending you so much love every day.

  8. I have been following your blog since I first read your story in People.
    I have such great admiration for you, for your mothering, for your fierce insistence that this pain is worth it. Thank you, Libby. I appreciate every word you write.

  9. Libby I was at dinner the other night and one of Jennifer’s hospice nurses was sharing your snowflake embryo story (no identifying details at all – I just recognized your family’s unique circumstances). She and her colleagues loved Jennifer and all of you. You have a strong family.

    Not sure what I am trying to say here. Please just know that Jennifer is so alive in her charisma and personality and impact in the world. She lives. I wish it was in a way that soothed your hearts, though. Oh, how I wish that.

    Random Stranger Inge

  10. If it is possible Jennifer is still alive, at least in thoughts. Especially this Christmas. So many have been thinking of your girl her soul is here. I’m sure she said hi on Christmas, and I’m sure she helped to dress her sister. I’m sure you know these things. So we are all here just reading and still thinking of you and your family.

  11. I feel foolish for bringing up the stocking idea last week. I should have known you guys would have a plan to include Jennifer into your holiday. OF COURSE you would. I am sorry if my comment seemed insensitive.

    I thought a lot about you and your family on Christmas. I am glad you guys made good memories and I am so sorry that Jennifer wasnt there in body; although I know she was in spirit. Love and light, Libby.

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