I was terrified of our first Christmas without Nicholas. The pain of his loss was jagged, and I hurt to my core. My husband and 15 year old son (Frankie) hoped to spend the time in a warm climate, instead, we went to be with a newly bereaved parent, who was suffering with abysmal grief, on a frozen farm east of Regina, Saskatchewan.
Our two sons met at Alberta Children’s Hospital. 12 year old Nicholas died in January 2000, and 15 year old T followed in July of that same year.
T’s Mom had been hospitalized twice for deep depression. She was asleep more than awake; she didn’t feel hunger, she rarely spoke and she never left the house. Her husband was exhausted caring for her and the needs of his farm.
We couldn’t abandon our friend when she needed us the most. She shined when my son Frankie was in the same room – she felt near to T.
Since leaving Calgary after T’s death, I was the only one she had contact with who had an understanding of what she was going through. Yet, she pointed out to me, we were still separate in our grief because I had a surviving child. She had lost her “only” and was gutted.
She and I spoke for hours about the last year of our boy’s lives, allowing each of us to release our demons. She showed to me the open and honest, white bones of her grief. Her complete abandon to the pain was humbling. I couldn’t let anyone see my darkest grief – it freaked me out!
By Christmas Day the six of us managed to pull together a seasonal supper with all the trimmings. As we were sitting together, just before beginning our meal, tears began to stream down my friend’s cheeks.
She asked, “Where will T and Nicholas sit for Christmas dinner?”
It was a torturous question and impossible to answer. I reached for her hand but she got up from the dinner table, and cleared off a small stand in the corner of the kitchen. Upon it she placed T’s candle and Nicholas’ memorial card.
It was her way of having the boys join us, their first Christmas as angels. She sat back down, picked up her fork, and we began our dinner.