This morning I finished wrapping up the gifts for the angels we adopted from our church angel tree. The kids and I have always adopted an angel, and Emily often did the same. So last year we adopted two, and I did the same this year because it’s what Emily would have wanted.
Like me, Emily loves the giving aspect of Christmas. And although I’ve been dreading everything about Christmas this year, I have consistently found the strength to do anything I know in my heart Emily would urge me to do, and this is just one of those things.
A Girl Who Loved Christmas
To say Emily loved Christmas is an understatement. It was her favorite holiday (with Halloween being a close second). She loved everything about Christmas. The decorations, the music shopping for the perfect gift for everyone… You name it, she loved it.
Based on stories I’ve heard from both Emily and her family, it sounds like her love of all things Christmas has always been a thing. Her dad has always put up incredible Christmas light displays. She insisted on decorating sugar cookies even as an adult. One of her favorite church services each year is the Christmas Eve service because she loves the candlelight. I could go on forever… But I won’t.
I know that Emily especially loved gift giving. She always tried to find something thoughtful and personalized for people if she could, which I found especially adorable. I have several hilarious graphic tees she bought for me as proof of her love of thoughtful, personal gifts (one is a music reference, and one mentions cats and mental health).
Last year we went over an hour from our house so she could get a specific scent of soap and other items for her mom. She spent months slowly collecting items for her nieces. It was all thought out, and she put so much effort into making sure everyone on her list felt loved and smiled as they opened their gifts.
And, of course, Emily also adored Christmas trees. Like, this girl loved them more than I thought possible. I thought I enjoyed Christmas trees, but last year I learned just how much Emily loves them.
Last Christmas was our first one living together. As I started talking about our Christmas tree, Emily started talking about what the tree theme could be for each room. I remember looking at her and asking what she was talking about, and she said, “Like we can put a tree in each room. Do you only put up one?”
After discussing how much trees cost, I got her to compromise with the promise that we could put up two trees that year and we’d keep an eye out for sales so we could put up more trees in 2022. So we did a tree with everyone’s favorite and most sentimental ornaments for the main tree, and a smaller beach-themed tree in the dining room (yes, between Emily and Eleanor we had enough beach/ocean ornaments for an entire tree).
I loved how happy something so simple made Emily, and I promised her this year we’d do 4 trees: the main tree, a beach tree, a music tree, and a pride tree. I also had so many plans for this December, like a date night at Opryland, a family weekend of all things Christmas, and spending lots of quality time with her family for the holidays. She loved Christmas so much, and I wanted to make this one the best yet for her as we celebrated her five-year heartiversary (no, that’s probably not a real word).
The Christmas Miracle
I have always found it ironic that Emily loved Christmas so much and also received a sort of Christmas miracle back in 2017. I guess you could say it just made Christmas that much more magical for her, even if it already was her favorite time of year.
I know for a fact that Emily never expected to get a new heart just two days before Christmas. I know this because she told me that she actually had plans to check a final few things she could accomplish off her bucket list for December 23 because she’d all but given up on the possibility of living beyond Christmas. But then she got that life-changing call, and she ended up getting a new heart instead of going to the lights at Opryland and whatever else she had planned (I want to say seeing a movie like Pitch Perfect 3, but I could be remembering this story wrong).
I also find it incredibly ironic that something Emily loved (her dad’s Christmas lights) helped connect her with her donor’s mother three years after the transplant. I know it was one of her favorite post-transplant moments, and she stayed in touch with Norma up until the end.
I’m Not Feeling Holly or Jolly This Year
As I think back to how involved Emily was in my life for the past two Christmases, it makes me happy and sad all at once. I loved spending the holidays with her, and it also makes this year’s Christmas season feel anything but jolly.
I mentioned all the plans we had for Christmas. Plans which, now, are all but null and void. I also had so much I was looking forward to in all of the Christmases that are yet to come. I couldn’t wait to celebrate our first Christmas as a married couple, our first Christmas with a dog, our first Christmas with a baby, our first Christmas in a home we purchased… I could come up with ideas for Christmas every year for the next century.
Emily loved Christmas. Because of that, I planned to make each Christmas magical for her for the rest of our lives. Yet, here I am, feeling like a huge Scrooge this year because I just don’t know how to celebrate Emily’s favorite holiday without her.
I know I need to put the Christmas tree up. I know I need to get my shopping done. But all I’ve been able to think about for the past two weeks is how much Emily loved Christmas, and the idea of celebrating it without her just feels wrong.