I had planned to write a post on losing a loved one at Christmas. How there is a time for everything under the sun – a time to laugh and a time to mourn – and sometimes that time to mourn falls at Christmas. Sometimes, even with soft, twinkling lights and stockings hung with care sadness must fall.
The idea was born of friends who have lost loved ones this year. Most recently, my friend Dixi. Her father died early Friday morning. What I never dreamt, however, was a knock Saturday morning and a friend informing us that Dixi and her sister, Kristen, had been killed in a head on collision Friday evening. They were almost home.
My mom and Dixi worked with each other for nearly 17 years. Like an old married couple, they knew how to make each other laugh, and when to leave each other alone. “I have a problem” was code for “I need another latte.” And this year, they implemented the “positive only” policy, where they agreed not to say negative things about people who annoyed. Mom admits that there were times they had nothing at all to say. When Dixi could take it no longer would simply say, “three dollar bill.” Mom would nod her head, and they would laugh.
I don’t imagine there will be much laughter in the office today.
Dixi loved and was loved back. She was an amazing Nurse Practitioner. She was knowledgeable on all sorts of subjects. She was the type of person you always wanted on your team for Trivial Pursuit, but never wanted to go up against because she would kick your butt to a neighboring state and back. Of course, as with most intelligent minds, she didn’t take kindly to idiocy. She loved to try new things. If she was afraid, she didn’t let on. She loved her family and she was a loyal friend. If you needed her, she would be there. She was a giver. She loved to laugh. She loved to celebrate. Champagne was her drink of choice, and though she resided in Idaho, her heart was snorkeling the blue waters of Mexico.
For many of us, the only consolation we have is the fact we were able to say goodbye. Dixie called to tell us she was back for a bit and thank us for taking care of Chloe. Before I hung up, I told her I loved her. She popped into the clinic as well – where her friends gave her their love and agreed that what she was planning to say at her father’s funeral was perfect.
My mom told her she was sorry for the loss of her father. “I’m not, honey,” she said, “death is not about us, it’s about those who have died.” It’s true. I know she’s in a better place. I’m thankful family was already on their way to her mother. And I’m thankful she and her sister went together. Ever since she found Kristen under the tree with a note “To Dixi” – forty-five Christmases ago – she’s taken care of her. It’s only fitting she would take her hand and lead her to heaven too.
But I just can’t stop the tears. I can’t imagine going to the clinic and not chatting with her. I can’t imagine a summer without a party or two in her backyard, seeing pictures from her latest trip, or searching the world over for the perfect tropically themed gift to give her.
But Dix would understand our selfishness. She would expect nothing less. She was always the strong one. Even when she had breast cancer. Once again, it was nearly Christmastime when she found out, but she made my mom promise not to tell anyone. She wanted to wait for the new year to break the news; that way, everyone could enjoy their holidays. As mom tried to put on a brave face Dixi said, “Don’t worry honey, I’ll be okay.” And she was.
I imagine Dixi would have asked to wait for the new year this time as well. Not so she could take Chloe to one more pug club, sit under her palm tree Christmas tree, laugh with friends, drink her champagne, or open presents. She would do it so her mommy wouldn’t have bury her husband and both her girls on the same day. So little Amy Beth wouldn’t have to come into work this morning and find the birthday present Dixi left on her chair before she left on Friday. She would do it so we could laugh and sing and enjoy the holidays.
But life doesn’t work that way.
So this year, our tears will fall as the snow. Eventually the tears will lessen; the laughter will once again increase. We will think of her everytime we sip some bubbly, frolic in the ocean, or raise our brows and mouth, “Three dollar bill.” In that, though she be far from sight, she will never be far from our hearts.
And each time we …
Look fear in the face
Do what we do well
Our lives will be a reflection of hers. In that, as long as we walk the earth, a bit of Dixi will walk alongside us. It’s the gift her life gave us and the memorial our lives give back.
So yes, sometimes a white Christmas is tinged with blue. Sometimes festivity is turned to sorrow and a holiday greeting is our goodbye. Sometimes we are reminded the hard way that the greatest gifts of all are not those under the tree, but those tucked deep within our hearts.