The thought occurred to me after I saw the Christmas card picture we took this year. Chouchou and I were seated in front of our Christmas tree- he had Mon Cœur on his lap, and I had Mon Amour on mine. Our four stockings hung neatly staggered on the wall behind us.
And then I saw the wooden angel MC decorated earlier this Christmas season – it was hanging from the window…Chou Chou had put this there for the picture, and I said to myself, “This is Millie – he put this angel here for her.”
And I realized that aside from a beautiful tree ornament that had been given to us, there is no representation of Millie’s spirit in our Christmas decorating.
Trouble signing cards.
Every Christmas card since we lost Millie, I have signed with our family name only, and no first names.
It’s been an internal struggle as to how to sign the pictures because we want to include “& Millie,” and yet we know some people won’t get it or won’t understand, or it would just be awkward.
And then I read about Ashlee’s Christmas tradition for her son.
And a lightbulb clicked. The Joyful Morning creator, Ashlee Proffitt hangs a stocking for her son. What better way to keep a child close to your heart than by including them with the physical presence of a stocking?
The kids’ stockings were a gift from their grandmother last year, for MA’s first Christmas. They are pretty, have lovely appliqué and beadwork, and their names are embroidered on the cuff of the stocking.
I decided that this would be a way to include Millie in our hearts and minds and not worry about how to sign the card. I took a quick look online at stocking options – I wanted something that was different, and yet had some similarities to her siblings. I didn’t find anything I liked.
So I went through my fabric collection and I found my favorite white appliqué fabric, some grey fabric, a few buttons, a bottle of beads, and some crochet thread to make her name.
I used MC’s stocking as a pattern and went to work cutting and preparing. Each cut, each stitch, each button, and each bead gave me an opportunity to reflect, remember, and cherish Millie.
Explaining to MC.
MC has recently mentioned Millie and says she misses her. We talk about her together and we say how we can’t wait to see her again, but Heaven isn’t a place you can just visit and then come home again, so we have to live our life here first-what a tricky concept. This has taken many conversations for her to understand, and she told me the other day, “…But we can’t go visit.”
I feel like for all of us, Chou Chou, MC, and me, we needed this reminder of Millie’s presence in our lives. It was therapeutic to make this little labor of love with MC’s help, and to talk freely to each other about Millie. I appreciate the honest truths and questions that came from MC.
The empty stocking was a reiteration in a way of an advent idea that I had read to MC. We were to set an extra place at the dinner table -“to remind us of Christ’s presence in our life.”
Making this connection for MC made it a little easier for her to understand, because she was super confused at first that Millie would have a stocking – “But she’s in Heaven. How will she empty the stocking? Can I have what’s inside?”
So I reminded her about the place we had set for Jesus. There wasn’t any food on the plate, and Jesus never physically came to dinner. It was a symbol, a reminder, a place holder.
Second or third? Third or fourth?
More than anything, I am trying to navigate the many truths about our family.
It seems so straight forward for me -we are a family of five, with one child in Heaven. Then, while in the middle of a conversation, I realize the delicacy and complications in trying to explain.
When talking about MA’s fierce spirit and energy, I hear a lot of, “Oh the second child…” And yes, what we see are two children and he is the second. What lies behind this seemingly simple family dynamic is the truth that our second child is in Heaven while MA is our third.
Sometimes people ask, “Will you try for a third?” It is both true that it would be our third earthly child and it would also be our fourth.
I always just say, “We haven’t decided if we’ll try for another.” It’s just easier for me to not assign a number.
I often tell my students, when they try to correct me, I gently explain that there are different ways of doing things. I tell them, “My way is right and so is your way – they are both correct, just different.” I try to remind myself the same when I have the urge to correct someone. We are both correct, in different ways.
We are a party of five, although you may only see four. At least with the stockings we can share our love for Millie and our complete family unit when sending our Christmas wishes.
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