|Rowan opening presents|
I spoke with Donna, Justin and Caroline a few days before Christmas, and I candidly told them this: "I'd really like to have you there on Christmas morning when Rowan opens her presents, but only if we can keep the focus on her and the fun of the Christmas morning experience. If there's going to be a lot of tears about Aimee not being here, than please don't come over. I know we don't want to hide our grief, but for just a few hours I want Rowan to just have fun and not have such strong reminders about her mommy not being there. This is the second Christmas in a row in her young life that we mourn the loss of a family member, and I want to do everything I can to keep Christmas from becoming associated with grief and loss for her." I was relieved when all three of them agreed with me on this.
Sure enough, Christmas morning came and all three of them came to my house to watch Rowan open her presents. And as I hoped, Rowan had fun, very few tears were shed during that window, and in fact I think we all got some joy from Rowan's excitement. It helped that Rowan LOVED so many of her presents, especially the new scooter Justin and Caroline got her and the huge dollhouse Donna got her. Rowan's joy was worth the effort it took to maintain composure.
We all sat down and watched a movie after the presents, and then Aimee's family went back to Donna's house, leaving Rowan and I alone. Soon after, Rowan noticed a stocking still hanging by the fireplace that no one had pulled down.
It was Aimee's.
I had asked a good friend of hers to pick up a few things for Aimee's stocking, really for Rowan's benefit (I guess I was afraid that if Aimee's stocking stayed empty, that might upset Rowan, but she didn't even notice it until this moment). Anyway, Aimee's friend Nancy bought a few things that were actually related to things Aimee and Rowan did together (such as beads, which they used to make stuff with), plus a stuffed dragon, who I had put into the stocking so that his head was poking out of the top. She and I quietly opened up mommy's stocking together, and I explained that Santa left these small gifts as if they were FROM mommy to Rowan.
Christmas was really hard without Aimee, but I felt like everyone stepped up and gave Rowan the best Christmas possible under the circumstances. Aimee's family is taking this pretty hard, obviously, but they're handling it with incredible grace and strength. Christmas morning was a great example of that.