I have a special Christmas tradition, which most people don’t follow. And they don’t realize how lucky they are.
When we get our Christmas tree, my husband puts it in the stand and places it in the exact spot I tell him to. Including, no, 5″ more to the right. Now, a little closer to the sliding glass door. Until it is in my version of the perfect place. Then the lights go on it.
And, as my whole family knows, I place the first ornament. The most important ornament.
And this is why it’s so special. Megan was born on December 23, 1981. This was a cesarean section birth and I was elated to have a Christmas baby. As a second child, I had most of what I needed from my first daughter. So I bought only two things before Megan’s birth. A beautiful blanket and a cute “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament. I especially loved the ornament because it came with little stickers to personalize the baby’s name, date of birth, height and weight.
But Megan never came home with us. She died on December 24, 1981 of cardiac arrest during open heart surgery. Her heart was broken. My heart was broken.
This year, after my husband placed the tree and lights, he went to work. I was home and was ready to decorate. All the boxes of ornaments were in the living room.
I couldn’t find Megan’s.
I sobbed and sobbed, as I haven’t in years. I frequently tear up thinking of her, but rarely cry to this extent. It’s been years and I know that she went instantly to Heaven and watches over my family. I know that she doesn’t want me to be unhappy and in pain. Time is fluid and in the big picture, I’ll be with her soon. Just, hopefully, not soon in the way we measure time here in regular life.
Cognitively, I knew that her ornament was somewhere, in some box, in our living room. I take special care to safeguard little Megan’s ornament, on which 35 years ago, I used the stickers to put her name, date of birth and death, height and weight. It would not have been accidentally thrown away. It was there, somewhere.
I ripped open each box, barely able to see through my tears. And I found it. Where I had carefully placed it last year, in with the antique ornaments that are carefully preserved.
My relief was overwhelming. But my crying did not abate until it was hung on the tree.
I have 4 mementos from her birth. One picture, because we thought we could take a ton when she was back in the room, a document from the church proving she had an emergency baptism in the hospital, her footprints taken at the hospital and this ornament. I had her wrapped in the baby blanket when she died.
Everything else is other documents. Her death certificate, the letter from the surgeon explaining each step of the surgery, and her obituary in the local newspaper.
Best of all, I have a couple of hours of wonderful memories before we knew she was sick.
But this year, the fear and almost debilitating grief came flooding back. Followed by enormous relief.
I found the missing ornament.