This will be the last post I’ll write (this year) regarding Christmas. The season has come and gone and now it’s time to move on.

The lead up to Christmas was harder than facing the actual day. This doesn’t mean that Christmas Day went by smoothly; it just means that I survived the day better than I thought I was going to.

Christmas, for us, started on Saturday 23 December when we headed down the coast to visit Gary’s parents. It’s a long drive, but it was a cool day. In fact, it poured with rain. I didn’t mind. We exchanged gifts and had a light lunch. Gary’s brother and his family arrived and we handed out more gifts. It was a long day, but not a hard day, as Barry never made this trip with us in the past, so there were no memories to be lost here.

Sunday was a rainy day too. We stayed home and I chose this time to put on the Christmas music and wrap the presents. Nothing was done with joy in my heart. I basically felt that it was just a job to be done, so I did it. However, I was aware that I wanted the receivers of the gifts to enjoy the unwrapping of their presents, so nothing was rushed. Many tears were shed on this day. Many tears. I missed Barry so much and found myself talking to him quite a bit. I hope he heard my words.

Daniel, being the typical young adult, was in no hurry to leave his bed on Christmas morning, so Gary and I exchanged our gifts without him. First, we took some photos of the Flame of Life that I had set up to represent Barry and then we opened our presents from each other. Gary had commissioned an artist to do a pencil drawing of Barry, which I’ve decided not to share with the world. I have to say that I was surprised and shocked when I saw it, and I still have mixed feelings about it. The thought behind the drawing was meaningful and done with much love, but, in all honesty, I don’t know if those mixed feelings I had were good or bad. I’m not sure that Barry was truly captured. Sometimes, I look at the drawing and think I’m looking at a complete stranger. Other times I can see his eyes and mouth clearly. My fear is…I don’t want the face in the drawing to replace the real image I have of Barry.

After the presents were opened, we sat looking at the Flame of Life and at the drawing, and we reflected on what Christmas might have been if Barry had not taken his own life. We sobbed for what we could not experience, for what we’ll never experience again. However, acknowledging the sorrow at that time allowed us to release the pressure that had bubbled away inside us for some weeks; and I’m glad Daniel wasn’t present to witness our breakdown.

Daniel finally surfaced and we had a second wave of present opening while the Flame continued to burn. It was subdued in comparison to other years, but Daniel is not a child and I expected nothing more than what we had. I suspect Christmas will only become magical again when Daniel has his own children to delight with Christmas wonders.

We headed over to my brother’s house for lunch. Of course, there were more presents to give and receive. We had agreed that we would only buy for the children this year, but that didn’t stop everyone buying something for me and Gary. It was embarrassing for us to receive, but not to give. When I bought the topic up later with my mother, she said that this was a special Christmas and it was important that we had something to open. I got a sense that they were trying to fill the gap they knew existed and they all gave me something special in memory of Barry. I was truly touched by this and can’t thank them enough.

Boxing Day saw us making the trip to see Gary’s son and his family, where we were joined by Gary’s daughter and her partner too. More gifts, more food and more tender moments that will become future memories.

Overall, the lead up was worse than the actual celebrations. Although I did everything on auto pilot, I did smile and laugh and we did enjoy all three days surrounded by relatives. My fear of ruining everyone else’s Christmas didn’t come about, which I am grateful for. We all had a good time, but I’m glad it’s over.

Today, I looked at the decorations in our house and, deep in my heart, knew that I wanted them packed away early this year. For me, Christmas is over. I’ve done what had to be done and now I want to put it behind me.