No one said the holidays were going to be easy. In fact, we were told they would be hard. I smiled and said, "ok," thinking I would be strong like I've tried to be so many times this year. As I went by Zac's grave yesterday, something I do everytime I go back home, it all began to sink in. It was overcast, quiet, with a gentle breeze. I know it sounds silly, but in that moment, like so many other times since he's been gone, I could feel him there with me. I can't see him. I can't touch him. But in some odd way that I can't explain, I feel his presence. Maybe it's a brother/sister thing, I don't know. All I do know is that it's never clear what to say when I visit his grave. It wasn't clear yesterday. So, I sat for a second like I always do, smiled, put my hand on top of his grave, and told him I love him. Something we always said to eachother as we said goodbye. Actually, those were the last words we ever said to eachother.
As I walked back to the truck, Anna asked to get out of the car to see Uncle Zac. As she knelt on his grave, she asked if the rose at the head of his grave was the rose that Tripp gave her after her Christmas program. I told her it was and she smiled. She had sent it back with Kacky to give to Uncle Zac. She then spread her arms across his grave and hugged the ground. "I love you Uncle Zac," she said. It was at that moment that it hit me like a ton of bricks. He's really gone. This isn't how it was supposed to be. I should be visiting him in his home with his precious Rosalina. Not at a graveside decorated with cards, flowers, and a small Christmas tree that Mom put there from all of us.
Maybe everyone was right. Maybe I was wrong. The holidays aren't going to be easy. Maybe I can't be strong all of the time. I'm tired of trying to be strong. Physically and emotionally tired. I miss my brother more than anyone knows. I have a huge hole in my heart that aches in a way I can't describe. And even though I know he's *here* with us in spirit, it still hurts. So, this Christmas Eve night, as we all sit by the fire outside at Mom and Dad's, we're going to miss him. I've accepted the fact that it will be hard to not have him there with us. We'll miss him telling his crazy stories. I'll miss each opportunity I would have had to smart off at him and get a "cut-down" fight going back and forth b/w us :). I know in my heart he WILL be there. We won't be able to see him, but he'll be there. And this Christmas, we will laugh at stories ABOUT Zac.
As this year comes to an end, I can honestly look back, take a deep breath, and realize just how strong my family and my faith is. I've learned that we are only as strong as our faith. And just as we have been through so many hard times, we have so much to be thankful for. Dad is battling like a trooper against his brain tumor. We have a special little bundle of red-headed joy in our lives :) Yes, our lives have changed in so many ways. They will never be what they were before, but in a way, we have all changed as a result. And I think that change is for the better. It seems a little more clear as to why we should cherish each day we have together. To tell eachother "I love you" every chance we get. To not harbor hard feelings towards eachother. To fight a good fight. And, last but not least, to lean on God for all things big and small.
I love you Zac. I miss you. Merry Christmas, bro.