No parent should have to add a grave blanket to their list of Christmas gifts to buy their children. It's a little bit appalling. Yet add it I did, and I was happy to. Why? Because it was something I could do for him. One of the worst parts of losing a child is the unfinished feeling you have. You haven't finished raising him, seeing what he was destined to become. As a Catholic I know that Ryan became exactly what God planned for him and his early death was part of that plan, but as a parent I wanted to see him go to high school, plan for a future, to be part of what he was to become. I was supposed to finish before him, he was to be there for me at the end and usher me into my Father's house. It feels all mixed up.
So now I do what I can for him. We ordered a beautiful headstone which can't go up until the spring, and I placed a blanket of evergreen on his grave. It was made by a dear friend, who is a florist and was covered in little musical instruments with a pretty little manger set in the middle. Every time we go visit Ryan there are plants and statues, little gifts and letters from people. It makes us happy to know he is remembered and loved, even still.
I have to confess to being royally annoyed that Christmas is going forward without my son. It seems so wrong that there be so much happiness when my heart aches so badly. Then I look into the faces of my children. They are happy about Christmas. The small ones are looking for Jesus to be in the manger in the morning and the wee ones are so excited to put the last piece on the magnetic Advent calendar. Then, of course, there is a jolly old elf due to arrive in the dark hours of the night. Their happiness touches me and helps me to focus on the joy. There can be joy even in our darkest hours because joy isn't really an emotion the way happy and sad is. Joy is the knowing that there is eternal bliss waiting. That God sacrificed His Son for our salvation. Joy is intellectual and carries on while happiness and sadness are fleeting. So I will take the joy and I will bide my time for happiness. It will come.
In the meantime, i do what I can for him. I speak to him in prayer, I attend as many Masses said for him as I can, and materially, I cover his grave in a mother's tears and a blanket of evergreen.