When Merry Christmas Doesn't Come Easy
I really loved my first forty-five Christmases. They certainly weren’t perfect, but they also weren’t painful. In fact, I would say that based on the purely imaginary Standard Holiday Happiness scale, although I had known highs and lows, my cumulative Christmas experience stood at a good, solid 8. I really liked holidays, and I loved making them happy for my husband and kids. It was a job I felt born to do.
Then came February 2011.
Just after celebrating our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary and on the day of our daughter’s sixteenth birthday, my wonderful husband, Steve, was diagnosed with ALS (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). ALS is a disease so fierce and foul that I feared all my holidays—before and after—would be redefined by it. I imagined looking at the family picture taken when we celebrated Christmas at SeaWorld and mentally recaptioning it: one year before our world fell apart.
In the months after the gut punch of the initial diagnosis, I caught my breath a little. We began to get our heads around what we were facing and how we would fight it. Slowly, as spring moved into summer, we developed a new sort of normal—tentative and tender but still more secure than we had felt in the brittle winter of Steve’s diagnosis.
Autumn snuck up on me with a beauty that took me by surprise. I remember the day I gave myself permission to love it. Long drives with Steve followed as we searched for the most beautiful trees in Central ...1