This week has been hard. Every moment of every day felt like I was in the middle of a marathon. I don’t run, but I can imagine the tired muscles at the halfway point, knowing that you can either turn back or go forward, but the distance is the same and you can’t just quit. I don’t want to turn back. Looking back only causes more pain. But the thought of moving forward often causes equal amounts of pain. I don’t really have a choice anyway, as life moves forward regardless of my state of mind about it, but sometimes staying right in this moment feels like the only possible way to go.

Giving Audrey a bath the other night almost had me weeping. Her brother would be old enough now to join her in the tub and play her silly little games. Making her plate for the thanksgiving spread left me breathless. I can only imagine that George Mason would have been in love with stuffing and gravy like his daddy. Walking through the zoo and watching Audrey tell us all that she knows about each of the animals made me long for those moments with George Mason that I will never have. Everything we’ve done this week has been a blatant reminder that we are missing our little man. He would big enough now that he would be interacting with us. His life would be more than just lying on blankets and nursing. It would be giggles and curiosity. It would be total adoration of his big sister. It would be the excitement of counting down to his first Christmas.

Instead, I’m finding myself wanting to skip Christmas this year. There is this deep and intense desire to honor, acknowledge, and include our son in our earthly celebrations of Christmas and yet there is nothing that seems to quite fill that desire; because nothing is the same as having my sweet George Mason here. I love Christmas. The tree, the lights, the scents, the colors, the story, the make believe, the wonder, the merriment. You name it, I probably love it. My mama used to joke that I came 3 weeks early because I was the poster child for a Christmas baby. December is my month. My birthday and anniversary. My college graduation. Everything happens in December and I love every single minute. But this year I wish I could just skip December. It doesn’t feel right to celebrate the birth of a son when my son died.

Except that the son we are celebrating is the most important son ever born. He is the very, and only, reason that I have any hope in this life after loss. I don’t want my life to be defined by the loss of my son’s life. I don’t want people to look at my story and only see George’s death. Certain days it seems like that’s all I’m capable of seeing, but when I take a step back, I know that God’s story is so much bigger than this loss. I just have to remind myself that. I’ve been wearing this key a lot more often lately. It’s a key that was given to my mom when she was diagnosed with cancer. It is inscribed with the word STRENGTH.  It was given to her with Psalm 138:3 - On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.  - It was passed around to a couple of people before it ended up being given to me, with the same verse. It has been a reminder that my strength to get through each day isn’t coming from any place of my own. It’s coming from my Lord and Savior. It’s been a reminder that God has not left me to do this alone and never expected me to handle the burden of grief and loss without him. It’s a reminder to re center my thoughts on the only begotten Son, and not on my own self pity or seemingly overwhelming circumstances. It has calmed my broken heart and pointed me back to the source of all joy.

I know that we won’t skip Christmas this year and that it’s impossible to just skip an entire month, but it also means that I’m going to have to be that much more intentional about giving all of these emotions and thoughts to God. I can’t survive this month without Him. I can’t survive this life without Him. Our Christmas might look a little different than it has in years past or what it will look like in years to come  but it will never not be a celebration of the perfect Son. My grief is reminding me of that in a weird, roundabout way. The gifted key is reminding me of that. The tears and anxiety that have riddled my days over the last months have reminded me of that. And for that, I am thankful. I’m hurt and missing my son, but I’m thankful. My mom at some point felt like she didn’t need that tangible reminder of where her strength came from and she passed her key along. In fact, every person who has ever been gifted that key got to the point where they were secure in their source of strength and passed it on. It’s just one of the ways that my caring and loving God has shown me that this won’t be forever. That one day I won’t need that key as much as I need it today. My prayer is that when that day comes, I will celebrate and praise the God who was my source of strength and joy, and prayerfully pass it along to the person who needs it more on that moment than me.