Friday, December 22, 2017

Home for the Holidays

“Are you ready for the holidays?” The question from store clerks always reminds me I’m not part of the Christmas spirit. I celebrate Chanukah, a lovely but minor holiday that doesn’t take much fuss. I don’t plan much for New Year’s either, preferring the introspection and renewal of the Jewish new year in September. And of course, as a suicide survivor, I’m often out of step with the rest of the world, never knowing when I’ll stumble on a grief surge.

This year, with Noah nearly five years gone and our living son, Ben, intent on distant travels, I feel stung that no one’s “home for the holidays”—especially when so many relatives and friends seem to be getting that best possible gift. At my inlaws’ big Chanukah party--this year on Christmas Eve--I’ll be blessed to be surrounded by warm, extended family. But the gathering of the clan and random sightings around town just remind me that no one’s coming home to my husband and me. At a poetry workshop, this slips out:
I can’t help staring at other mothers’ sons
who hover beside them, aglow with youth,
outside a holiday concert, who lean in
to shake my hand, recount their latest milestone.
On cue I ask them what’s next when what I mean is:
Can I take you home?

Today, I’m wearing a necklace Ben made for me and thinking back on childhood games he shared with Noah. I remember them making a dam in the stream, urging the dog down the sliding board, calling out “Lemonade!” to neighbors from their makeshift stand. A few days ago, Bryan and I decided to go visit Ben in Japan in February; we’ll shore up our new makeshift family of three. Next year, I plan to ask Ben, wherever he is, to come home for the holidays.

To my fellow survivors: We cling to what’s left of our fragile sense of family after suicide. So often we feel abandoned or disappointed when others can’t possibly fill the void. On celebratory occasions, we cast about for what feels right. What do you need to cheer you this holiday season? Reach out to others to ask for it, this year or the next. Wishing you moments of comfort and joy. 

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