The Missing Ornament

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.

This is Megan’s ornament, which I bought before she was born.the-missing-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.


About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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34 Responses to The Missing Ornament

  1. Val says:

    I’m so sorry.. Sorry that you lost your child, sorry for all your grieving and distress, sorry you lost her precoous ornament even though you found it again. Hugs. x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. patty Dann says:

    What an exquisite and heartfelt personal essay. I am moved and honored to read this.
    What a wonderful writer and mother you are.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m so sorry about Megan. Such a sad story yet your hope and strength shine through your beautiful writing. I was pulling hard for you to find that ornament and was thrilled when you did. Merry Christmas to you and your family. ~ Viv

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ann Coleman says:

    I’m so sorry about Megan! I don’t think you can ever recover from losing a child. No wonder the ornament means so much to you, and no wonder you were overwhelmed with grief when you couldn’t find it. It’s a connection to your daughter and to Christmas…. Thanks for sharing your story. My guess is that many people can relate to it, and your honesty and strength probably mean a lot to them. Merry Christmas, Barb!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Almost Iowa says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Later tonight it will be a year since I lost a very young buddy to an accidental gunshot. He lived just across the street. I see that now empty house every day, his widow having moved out. I miss Tyler so much. We don’t get over these things. That’s okay. It’s part of the cost of love. Sometimes that means a broken heart, and sadness when something like a date on the calendar triggers emotions. Our consolation must be that both he and your dear Megan are now in a place without surgeries, mistakes, grief and tears. And they will have a merry Christmas because they are with the reason for the season Himself.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. this entry made me cry, that is such a sweet way to remember her, it is so unfair that things like that can happen!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. What a beautiful poignant story Barb, it’s so lovely that you have keepsakes of Megan’s brief time on earth. It’s so heartbreakingly unfair that these things happen. My heart goes out to you ❤️️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you for reading this and sharing in a bit of my story. We all go through different hardships. I was blessed with four beautiful children. I wish Megan was here with us now, but she will always live in my heart, and will always watch over us.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Paul says:

    Touching blog post, Barb. I love that you have this tradition and can pay homage to Megan every Christmas. You had me panicking though when you said you couldn’t find the ornament. My heart was slowly breaking.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. peckapalooza says:

    My officemate is probably wondering why I’m crying. So glad you found Megan’s ornament.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh..Barb! How heart-breaking is that! that you can’t find the ornament, that she ahd a broken heart, and yours was broken too..that you had the blanket you last held her…my,,,my…I got all chocked-up from reading it all…

    Glad you found it!!! (and that you had a good cry. we al need it!) xoxo.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Barb, your post gave me pause. Many of us are able to appreciate the joy of the holidays, but sadly during what should be a time of joy, there are some memories that can’t help but bring us pain. And, although, loss is a part of the human condition—knowing that it can happen at anytime—means we’re vulnerable to it even during the happiest of times. However, the loss of a child at any time—particularly during the holidays—is absolutely devastating. Your daughter Megan’s passing has reminded me (as it will others) just how precious—no matter what age—are children are to us, and that every moment should never be taken for granted, ever. I pray this Christmas, that your treasured memories of knowing she was yours—even if only for that short blink in time—will help comfort you during the holidays.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Oh Paul, this is so beautiful. You’ve expressed perfectly how tenuous life can be and how much we should appreciate our loved ones. “In a blink of an eye” is perfect. Thank you for such a beautiful comment. You brought tears to my eyes.


      • I realize it was probably little comfort, given the gravity of your loss, but I wanted you to know that I think your post had (and will continue to have for many of us) a profound impact, to cherish every moment we have with our loved ones. Thank you for that, Barb.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        I hope so. Over the years, I’ve found that this is a time when I have an excuse to talk about Megan. And to share my grief. If my story can resonate with others, then that is an additional blessing for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. randyjw says:

    Hi, Barb. That is the most beautiful, precious ornament I’ve seen. You honor her soul by lifting it up, and she does the same for you, actually. And now you’ve done the same for us. Thanks, Barb.

    Liked by 1 person

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