You’re not here.
The words tumble through my heart like an oil-laden ocean, like gritty rocks that eviscerate your leg as you hit the bottom.
No matter how many cookies I bake or gifts I buy or times I let the Christmas carols reverberate, the stark truth stands. You’re not here. You’re gone.
Everyone tells me to live in the memories, to remember you were loved, that we loved. But love and memories don’t fill the gap your absence left. They don’t warm the blackened night. They don’t illuminate that wondrous star that seeks to guide.
You’re gone, and I’m here in your empty spot, aching for something that can’t be. The futility of the wish doesn’t make it dissipate. The heart is foolish but strong.
The holiday hustle and bustle distracts me for a while, but in the Silent Night moments, I am drowning.
Still, I trudge on, knowing time won’t heal this wound. It will simply mask it, a patch that allows me to limp forward. A bandage that stops the life-threatening injury from completely usurping my life force—just barely, it feels sometimes.
I hang the mistletoe and drink the hot chocolate. I numb myself when the holiday movie comes on you used to love. I brace myself as your favorite cookie sends grief washing over me. I readjust the bandage on the wound, put more pressure on it, and try to keep from flat lining. Sometimes, if I’m honest, I wish I would succumb to the rotting injury that is grief.
But tonight, I took a moment to separate from the Christmas carols and sap of the tree. I stepped onto my deck and let the bitter cold envelop me. I exhaled a cloud of guilt, of regret, and of melancholy. And standing there, looking up at the same stars that graced our memories, I inhale you. The love we shared fills me, embraces me from the inside out.
I realize the truth I’ve almost forgotten. I realize the magic that is still alive.
Because it’s true, you’re not physically sitting here at the holiday dinner.
You’re not stealing my scissors or hiding the tape as we wrap gifts.
You haven’t helped the elf take flight this season or sang out “God Rest You Merry, Gentleman.”
You’re not glowing with the thought of that gift you bought me and are hiding.
Still, the magic is still there, perhaps even bigger this year. Because the magic is this: against all the impossible odds, you ARE still here.
You’re settled into my weary bones. You’re wrapping my heart in the love I know still exists between us, even though we’re farther apart than we ever were.
You’re here in the courage I find to go back inside, to wash down the candy cane with eggnog like you taught me. You’re here in the magical moment I realize I can carry on the traditions.
You’re here, still, always, because as I realize now, love does not simply vanish. Love is not banished to memories. Love subsists, even when the body does not.
You’re here, so I find the power to uncover a sense of magic. Not the same magic, of course. But magic, nonetheless.
Because you were here, and because you still are, I know I must find the magic for the both of us this season.
You’re not here—yet you are. And that, perhaps, is the biggest sign of holiday magic there is.
~To all who are grieving during the holidays. The magic will be different, which is okay. But it’s also okay to still find a version of the magic, no matter what that looks like.
Author L.A. Detwiler
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books