It’s December 15th – only 10 days until Christmas and in years past I would be busy baking holiday treats, buying gifts and looking forward to spending precious time together. Instead, I’m avoiding the mall, turning off Christmas carols when they come on the radio and have procrastinated on putting up a tree until just last night. I’m struggling to find joy in a season that I have always loved most. Everywhere I turn, there are memories of holidays gone by when my family was whole. The last time I saw you alive was Christmas in North Vancouver last year and it was the kindest, sweetest time our family had ever spent together.
This year, as I prepared my voice students for their Christmas concert, it was a kind of torture for me. So many years and so many different memories ranging from our concerts in Stratford when you and Justin sang “Nuttin’ For Christmas” as a duet to the song “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” which your class in Holland sang for our big Christmas Concert and you helped me re-write a whole verse in to include the popular games that were out that year. The penciled in words in my old Christmas Song Book from 2002 broke my heart to read. How on earth, was I going to get through this year’s concert?
Jim and I put up a Christmas tree last night – our first year with a real tree – you would love it; it’s a Colorado Spruce and a real beauty! It is filled with the most eclectic decorations from both Jim’s and my past. Everything from the very expensive Swarovski crystal snowflakes to hand-made beaded ornaments and all of the little things you kids had made in school over the years. We designated one branch on the tree as the “Dylan branch” where all of your childhood ornaments were placed. Neither Eden nor Justin seemed to want to do it with us so we just went ahead and did it. I thought I was going to be okay until I pulled out the stockings. When I saw yours there with your name on it, it was a crushing reminder that no, we would not be filling a stocking for you this year… or ever again. What was I supposed to do with your stocking? I can’t set it out with the others, I can’t donate it to a charity, I could never bring myself to throw it away. I took it upstairs to the shelf in my closet and had a long cry. While Jim and I were upstairs, Eden and Justin hung up their ornaments and made popcorn…. Justin is doing a string of it for the tree. We are all sorting through this holiday in our own way as best we can.
When Jim and I were on our honeymoon in October, we found a painted memorial stone on the beach. I thought it was a really beautiful tribute to leave out in the open for people to find so I am painting some stones in your honour… it’s my intent that they get left outside in public places and that even if just for a moment, someone who sees it will think of you – whether they knew you or not. When I picked up the stone on Long Beach in Ucluelet, it was so full of love and meaning, I immediately set it back down right where I found it. I am hoping that anyone who finds your stone will also treat it with the respect it deserves. It is a strange and painful activity for me – sitting at the dining room table and painting stones for you but I hope you like them and know that this, the music bursary and your website are all important to me in keeping your memory alive. Jim and I are going out to Kaslo for a weekend away and I will leave one there somewhere you might have enjoyed.
I know how important health was to you and you will be happy to know that we are still maintaining our sobriety pact. I truly don’t miss alcohol at all anymore and it’s so nice to be able to be at events and not have to worry about driving home or waking up with a headache! We are also going to the gym EARLY in the mornings… who would have thought that I’d actually enjoy exercising at 6 am, but most mornings, Justin, Eden and I (and occasionally Jim) are doing it. It’s such a great way to start the day and I’m sorry I didn’t start doing it at this time of day years ago. I often think of you when I’m there and your commitment to fitness. At times when I’m feeling weak, I remember you running ahead of me on the trails in North Vancouver or on the Grouse Grind or doing chin ups on the bar at the house and I push myself to do just that little bit more.
I miss you Dylan and am sending you love across time and space to wherever you are. I hope some part of your soul or spirit or whatever essence of YOU is still there knows how deeply loved you are and that you are carried every single day in my heart. Christmas will be difficult this year without you but this is our new reality and we will lean on each other and get through it.