Tuesday, December 8, 2015

12 DOC: Day Eight: Kellie Soper

*This post is part of our Twelve Days of Christmas series. You can read more here.*

Almost Perfect Christmas

I love Christmas. Actually I love Christmas Eve. My family does Christmas BIG. They do everything big because there are a lot of us.  

Growing up we spent Christmas Eve at my grandparents. It started out as a quiet evening at home for my mom's first Christmas. My grandparents had seven more kids in twelve years, and it grew quickly. Boyfriends and girlfriends became husbands and wives and then the grandkids quickly grew with their husbands and wives and then the great-grandchildren (thirty-eight and counting)! Now it's so big that we actually have to rent a hall. No one has a house big enough for this party! Quiet Christmas Eve turned into dozens and dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins singing carols, opening presents, family pictures, a Nativity play, games, Santa visiting, food, spirits, and whatever else we can fit in to the night before people head off to Midnight Mass.

I love it.

This celebration taught me early on that Christmas wasn't about presents. It was about presence. Sure, I was excited for gifts and my one uncle loved to rile up the kids with a "We Want Presents" chant. But it was never just about that. It was always about love and family and Jesus.

I only missed it once the year my husband and I were married. We had taken so much time off for our wedding and other family weddings that we could not make it home. I was so sad to miss it and my husband was too. We knew as soon as our son was born we wanted to spend all of our Christmases in Iowa. It would become a priority so our children could feel the joy of family, the love of Jesus, and the magic of Christmas with a big family.

But then May 30th, 2014 happened and everything I once knew changed forever. That was the day we received our fatal diagnosis for our precious daughter. She was not expected to live long after she was born, if she survived at all. Her due date was in October, but she was not born until November 12, just two weeks before Thanksgiving. Our holidays would never be the same again.

We still went to Iowa for Christmas, just six weeks after she was born sleeping, but we missed the big Christmas Eve. I just couldn't spend her first Christmas Eve with my whole, big, wonderful family if Lily wasn't with me. I guess I wanted both of us to miss her first Christmas.

I still want my children to experience that big, wonderful, family Christmas of mine, but right now we are just not ready for that and that's okay. This is our second Christmas since Lily was born sleeping just over a year ago. I think everyone assumes it gets easier your second time through everything, and for some maybe it is, but not for us and definitely not for us this year. 

A newborn sleeps through Christmas. Their only memory is the pictures we take and the stories we tell. But a one year old? They start to see the magic. Their eyes light up when they see Christmas lights. They either smile, or scream and cry, at Santa. They get to dress up as little angels for the Nativity play and show off their adorable Christmas jammies at the end of the night. They let their big brother open all of their gifts and they fall asleep in your lap because they are just too exhausted from all the fun they had with their dozens and dozens of cousins. So as much as my heart was aching that she missed her newborn Christmas, it aches all the more for her one year old Christmas.

But we still rejoice in the season and spirit of Christmas because I know Lily would want us to. We just don't do it the way I always envisioned because honestly, from here on out, nothing is as I envisioned it.

Our second Christmas missing her will probably look a lot like our first Christmas missing her. Only this year, I expect to feel it all a lot more. I'm out of the fog, passed the shock, and I'm aware every day of my new reality. We may or may not go to Iowa. We may or may not go to Christmas parties. We may or may not feel like celebrating or singing at Mass. I just don't know and that's okay.

But, this is what I do know. We will be together as a family. We will decorate a big tree again and a small one just for Lily.

We will hang our stockings with ALL of our names. We will decorate her grave with Advent and Christmas decor. We will laugh together and we will cry together. We will remember our precious daughter. We will smile through tears when our son says, "Merry Christmas Lily!" 

And we will miss her, with every sweet memory we make with her brother, we will long for another moment with Lily.

Last year I said this and it still rings true today and always will for us:

"All in all, it was almost perfect...as close as perfect gets when you are missing your daughter. I don't think we will ever have a perfect Christmas again, but I'll take a few more "almost perfect" ones..."

~ ~ ~
Kellie Soper lives in Arizona and is wife to her amazing husband, Jason. Together they have two beautiful children, one on earth and one sweet, perfect soul in Heaven. Ted is a wild, silly, and rambunctious toddler. Their sweet Lily Frances was born sleeping on November 12, 2014. They learned at their 18 week ultrasound that Lily had a fatal neural tubal defect the doctors said was "incompatible with life." Kellie and Jason both knew Lily was not a "decision", but their precious daughter and they believe her life was of value, no matter what. She carried Lily with love for 42 weeks and 2 days. They miss her every single day, but are grateful for the honor and privilege of being her parents. You can read more about their family on Kellie's blog, Life and Love.


Will and Keri Ellis said...

BEAUTIFULLY written!! Coming up on our first Christmas this year, lost our sweet Anen baby in August, and there is a void for sure! One year ago, this was NOT what I envisioned! Way to keep pressing on mama. You are loved, you are Treasured, you are adored! ~keri ellis

Katie Anne said...

Kellie, thank you so much for sharing your story. Prayers for you and your family this Advent and wishing you the blessing of sweet memories this Christmas.

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