(You may want to read the entry from November 3rd before you read anymore of this one….)
I cleaned today. Well, I did the annual cleaning that takes place shortly after Christmas. It’s been on my mind for the last several days; and something I haven’t looked forward to, but I did it anyway.
And as I packed up and put away I cried. As I cleaned up the decorations and clamped the boxes shut, I cried. I cried, and I cried. It was a difficult day.
I cried because when I hauled this all out of the attic in early November, and out of the dust covered bins, and placed it upon my shelves and around my home, Caitlin was by my side; she was a part of it. She helped me pick out every decoration for our new rainbow tree in the family room. She sat outside while we decorated the front yard. She laid on her downstairs bed watching, while we strategically and loving hung her “rainbow” in lights on the back pergola.
So today, while I take it all down, my thoughts consistently repeat themselves,” Caitlin was here when I put it all up. Now, I’m taking it down, and she is gone.”
Something has begun to frustrate me; so I am certain those closest to me are tired of hearing it. Everything seems to be identified as “before Caitlin (was diagnosed/had surgery/started chemo/died)” and “after Caitlin(was diagnosed/had surgery/started chemo/died).” I’ve listened to myself speak, and I don’t know how anyone can tolerate it anymore. I hate that I am identifying my life as ‘before’ and ‘after’ Caitlin (anything). I promise I am trying to stop saying that. I promise I am trying to stop establish my life as before and after caitlin; but I find it incredibly difficult, given the impact and importance she had on my life.
Today, I worked with a ferocious mindset, to find the positive, and amid the tears, find reason to give thanks and celebrate.
It took me until the 3rd room to truly embrace what I had set out to accomplish. It wasn’t about getting Christmas “put away” or “cleaned up” today. It was about finding Caitlin, hidden among it. She shined brightly, in the ornaments on her rainbow decorated tree. I found her easily in the handmade decorations from years before. She was all around in the rainbow colored lights strung up the staircase, and around the house. She was unmistakably present when we took the star of the top of the tree, or unplugged the lighted angel in the front yard. But in the living room, I found her hiding.
She was there, as I cleaned up the remaining gifts still left to be put away. It was like she suddenly jumped up and said, “Here I am Mama. I’m hiding over here!”
Yes, there she was…
She didn’t unwrap any presents this year. She didn’t tear the paper from the packages or get excited about what Santa left for her. She didn’t watch with anticipation, like in years past, as one of us opened the gift she had taken care and time to pick out and wrap for each one of us. No, that isn’t where I found her today.
Today I found her as I remembered a text from a few days ago…
“…a gift from Caitlin…”
I didn’t write it, but I received it.
And in remembering those words, those 4 simple words, I found the gift my daughter had given me this year. She gave me a chance to renew and reinvest in friends and family I may have begun to take for granted. She gave me an opportunity to reach out to people that were casual acquaintances, or complete strangers, and she let me open my heart and my life to them easily, and gratefully. And, Caitlin gave me back loved ones I had accepted as ‘lost relationships’ or ‘in the past.’ She allowed those loved ones to return to my life and help to bring me heartfelt comfort, support and tremendous love after many years.
She left me a gift. She gave me a present.
My Christmas cookbook has been returned to the shelf, alongside all the rest of the cookbooks. My favorite everyday cookbook sits on the pretty wrought-iron stand on top of my refrigerator.
And I planted a tree in the front garden this morning…
It isn’t Martha Stewart, and it is entirely too bright…
And for once in my life, I don’t give a damn. All my love, d