Lights, angels, wishes & prayers

December 5, 2011

The tree is up, and every time I look at it I smile. I say “fuck you,” to the darkness, and promise myself to get through the dark days of winter, and I bask in my Christmas tree memories, and I miss my boy, and I smile. I’ve been decorating the tree in my office work area for good measure.

I dream of Christmas cookies I’ll never find time to bake, and make a short list of the ones I have to bake: peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses (N’s favorite), chocolate crinkles (my brother’s favorite), thumbprint cookies with walnuts (my favorite).

I play music and sing carols. Dot now has the first verse of “Away in a Manger” down by heart (Mom taught it to her months ago, and now she keeps asking to sing the “Lowing” song). But I often turn to” The First Noel,” or “Little Town of Bethlehem,” or “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” as a lullaby. You’d think “Silent Night” would be the obvious candidate, but 1) I’m still recovering from seeing that damned holiday diaper commercial the first Christmas after Teddy died, and 2) Dot doesn’t seem to like the way I sing it, and often requests that I stop by waving her arm at me and saying, “No. NO!”

Dot has a Fisher Price nativity set. I had no idea such things existed, but my parents found one for us. I have mixed feelings about it. I do not approach the Christmas story with the pure (if largely untested) faith of my youth, and I do not want to approach it with disrespect. I do want Dot exposed to it, but I’m not sure what to tell her about it all yet. It helps that she’s not yet two years old and that she is mainly interested in kissing owies on the faces of Joseph, Jesus and “Murry.” Murry also seems to go on a lot of long walks with the sheep, leaving Joseph and Jesus to fend for themselves. I try to tell myself that this isn’t a reflection of anything worrying. And, by all accounts, Murry has a lot on her mind. Maybe long walks are just what she needs.


It’s a beautiful time of year in so many ways. One of those ways is the way that missing Teddy rises to the surface. Not like August, which is still just a month I want to get through. I think of Teddy when looking at the tree, when wishing for snow, when writing cards, when considering what to bake, when talking to family on the phone. He’s on the tip of my tongue, the tips of my fingers, the top of my mind. I call to him constantly, little boy, little Huckleberry, how I love you, love you still, love you always. I wish you could see this – can you see it? I wish I could save some of this holiday warmth for you – I hope you have your own.

It’s not all beautiful, of course. There are tears and stress and yelling. Sadness because no one mentions him in their holiday letters any more, because people are afraid to talk about him, and because sometimes I’m one of those people, afraid to talk. Because I still think that mentioning my dead baby boy shouldn’t stop the party, and it almost always does. But for the most part, I feel closer to Teddy in December somehow.


Grief Girl nearly charged howling into a Face.book thread on angels started by a friend of hers who is a pastor. Fortunately, maybe, Grief Girl’s alias was able to channel her energies into another venue (my toilets are really, really clean!). My problems with angels, or the stories of angels that you tend to hear on Fac.ebook, are much the same as miracles, and boil down into three main points, two of stabby, stabby rage (as per usual) and one that’s more philosophical:

1) If angels flit around saving lives, well, where was Teddy’s fucking angel? Where? ‘Cause if that fucker was on a coffee break, then I need to talk to his/her/its supervisor. You know, when I’m on speaking terms with the Supervisor again.

2) I can’t think of a good reason for angels to flit around and save some people, children, babies, disaster victims, and not others. And if you buy into free will as the source of all evil in the world (argh, grumble, grumble, argh) then why would you believe that some people aren’t subject to it after all? And there seems to be an element of at least potential self-righteousness (there was a plan for this person/my baby, or this was a reward for his/her faith and good works) in all of this that makes me want to pull hair and kick things.

3) I don’t really believe angels flit around saving people. Usually, from biblical accounts, they tend to do the opposite and get people into massive heaps of trouble. Job probably would have been happier if angels had stayed well away from him. And the Virgin Mary was a very good sport about it all, but how would you like to have to explain to your husband-to-be that you were pregnant by God? Before angels moved into popular culture, angelic intervention seems to have been reserved for people of phenomenal strength, courage, and purpose – people who come along rarely, and a good thing, too, if angels tend to leave paths of chaos, destruction, and disruption in their wakes. I’m not sure I’d cross the street to shake hands with an angel if the opportunity presented itself. Assuming it had hands to shake.

I know enough to know that many people do take great comfort in stories of angels, in the idea of angels, and I don’t want to belittle them for that, or diminish that comfort. But I prefer my angels at a safe distance, singing in the skies over Bethlehem in my favorite carols, or as sombre statues on tombstones in historic cemeteries, or making strange truces with demons in my favorite novels.

Grief Girl makes more appearances this time of year. I should probably mend her cape and get her a fresh box of tissues. And maybe one of those little reindeer antler headbands to wear to parties.


I had a really great conversation with my brother last night. He’s a typical man of my people, and typically not very talkative, so a good long talk is something to be cherished. We talked about work and medical billing procedures and family and the upcoming holidays, about cooking and decorating. And, for the first time, we talked openly about the struggle he and my lovely sister-in-law are having with starting a family. My heart aches for them, aches that the same diaper commercial that stabbed me in the heart years ago will probably be replayed and stab them as well.

I think, like me, they had thought it would be easy. Entry into parenthood is such a perilous thing. I wish, for them, it could be easy. And safe, and certain.

I wish so much for them to be able to be parents that my wishes start to feel like prayers.



  1. Just wanted to say that I am here reading… and I think I have also felt a lot of these things about angels, etc. Oh how life has changed since my boy was here.. in so many ways.

  2. I think that fucker of an angel took all of August 2008 off. Have sent numerous emails to the supervisor, all gone unanswered.
    Sigh, this year really does bring out the best (worst) in grieving parents, I think.
    Love to you. Missing Teddy, so much.

  3. Hmm salivating at your description of those cookies. Yum. Sound as delicious as the cinnamon rolls as big as your head from Sunshine.

    I like your choice of lullaby, poor old J and R generally seem to get ‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’ which is my favourite carol but kind of bombastic for a lullaby! I also tend to avoid ‘Silent Night’, it makes me weepy.

    There’s a Fisher Price nativity set?! And glad I am not the only one who is occasionally worried about how the behaviour of the ‘mother’ in any of these games may reflect upon herself! Although given that J confidently identified me as Dr Seuss’s Jertain in a Curtain yesterday I don’t suppose I have too much to worry about!

    Argh angels. I do wish people would think these things through to their logical conclusions. And I’m with Job, if you see an angel, go grab your running shoes because they don’t generally bode well.

    Hoping for your brother and his wife, I’m sorry that they find themselves in such a painful situation. I thought it would be easy too.

    I can no longer clearly differentiate between my wishes and my prayers either.

    Glad that this time of year brings you close to your boy, your Huckleberry xo

  4. We seem to have adopted “We three kings” as our chanson de choice this Christmas (with alternative lyrics pertaining to modes of transport, appealing to a 9 year old and 7 year old!)

    You always seem to say more clearly than I the stuff I think about God/faith/religion/Fisher Price nativity sets (I LOVE Murry!!).

  5. I love the beginning of this post. And this “Grief Girl makes more appearances this time of year. I should probably mend her cape and get her a fresh box of tissues. And maybe one of those little reindeer antler headbands to wear to parties.”

    We have the Fisher Price nativity set too, though I found a few nativity sets (or partial ones) as I unpacked Christmas stuff, and Kathleen seems to like to play with those as much if not more. Do you have the large one that plays music? Thankfully we have the small, silent one.

  6. My friend (who is in seminary and soon to be ordained as a minister) told me that God and “angels” only make their presence known in our lives through human beings who represent them. So when my atheist friend from grad school showed up with the Sex in the City movie and spent the afternoon with me even though I was mute with grief and unshowered, she believes that was also God’s presence, keeping me company. The problem is, of course, that humans are flawed and failing, and not very good representatives of the divine much of the time. But I like the idea that if God exists, I find him (her?) in the love of those around me, not in some mysterious choir of angels that shows up (or doesn’t) depending on whim or convenience or chance.

    And still I believe in something about the magic of a season that sparkles in the darkness and does make our babies feel a little closer.

    My heart goes out to your brother and sister-in-law.

  7. I am always amazed that Christmas still manages to be Christmas, even though it is now inseparable from and forever coloured by the loss of Katie & both my grandparents within the space of 14 months.

    Love Dot’s “lowing” song & “Murry” and family. According to my mother, when I was about her age, I knew all the carols but my favourite was “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” which I referred to as “the Angels Bend song.” ; ) I too think that angels are more likely to exist on earth in the kindness that we show to others than heavenly creatures who swoop down to intervene in a select few cases.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: