That Holiday Ache
There are gifts pouring in, cards arriving, messages of love and support flooding my inbox and voice mail, and my heart feels full. I know that, thanks to all of you, Ana and Emily will have a BEST DAY EVER this Christmas. Thank you so much. Thank you a thousand times. There aren’t enough thank you’s. I’m sending them out to you now – closing my eyes – hoping you feel them drift into your holiday festivities.
It’s safe to say that my emotions are all over the place. This is the third Christmas we’ll be celebrating since Ana’s initial diagnosis. The first year, I was preparing to donate half my liver to Ana (but thankfully didn’t have to go through with that). She went into the Christmas of 2012 incredibly sick, but happy to be home. Last year she’d been in remission and recovering beautifully from her transplant, but we’d just been told that her cancer had returned and she’d need surgery to remove the new tumors (she had two removed in February 2014). And now there’s this Christmas – another holiday greatly anticipated but also feared because it marks the passage of time, and brings Ana closer to yet more treatment.
When Ana was first diagnosed, and milestone dates came and went, I’d walk around with this ache in my chest. I’d look at photos or objects that represented the ordinary, healthy childhood that Ana had – those moments lost forever. The normal days. The hopeful days. The days where the future seemed certain, and I just assumed we were entitled to it – entitled to a healthy child, entitled to a lifetime of Christmas mornings…my little family.
But it turns out that’s all bullshit, and nothing is certain, especially now. I don’t think that’s news. I think on some philosophical level I always had some level of dread about worst case scenarios – there are many things that can go wrong in life, after all. So when Ana got sick, the ache in my heart emerged. It’s not as bad anymore or maybe I’m used to it. It is my constant companion. As the hours wind down and the holiday approaches, I’m feeling it more and more. When a special surprise arrived for Ana – a big, amazing gift – I sat beside the open box and cried.
They were tears of gratitude. They were tears of sadness. They are still there, just below the surface because even though I’m incredibly excited to shower my children with gifts this year, I’m dreading 2015. The journey has been so very long and I’m scared. And that’s where I’m at right now – still grateful, still devastated, still fiercely looking forward to Christmas day when time will stand still for a few heartbeats and I can forget about this ache for just a little while.