It’s been 5 years since I wrote my family’s annual holiday letter. Since my brother, Phil, died on July 23, 2017, I’ve had no desire to write a happy holiday letter, or any holiday letter at all. My favorite time of year became the time of year I dreaded.
I no longer dread Christmastime, but I also don’t look forward to it like I used to. I enjoy the music, the lights, the gift giving and receiving, the stories, and the movies (I’m an absolute sucker for holiday romance films). Yet all of those things blend with loss and longing for the people that are no longer here.
I’m currently in my kitchen typing this with cookies cooling on the counter and George Michael crooning a Christmas tune about heartbreak. This is my element, folks. Yet my stomach and chest are tight from all the withheld tears I just refuse to shed today.
Phil should be here right now. I should be slapping his hand as he tries to steal a cookie. We should be drinking tea at this very kitchen counter, gossiping about one of his friends or editing his latest erotica story. Instead, I keep looking beside me, just fucking wishing for him to appear.
I do understand why I’m feeling this grief so intensely this week. Besides it being Thanksgiving (which my brother came over to my house every Thanksgiving), I stumbled across a bunch of photos from the last Christmas we had with Phil. At first, I was just in awe and was enjoying seeing his face. Then I became across this photo:
This is my then 9-year-old son, leaning over to kiss my brother on the cheek. They were both enthralled with the new Yoda my son received, and honestly, they both just loved each other fiercely. When I saw this photo, I gasped because I forgot its existence. Then I sobbed. And sobbed. I rocked my body and just sat in that feeling of immense, overwhelming grief.
I took a long break from looking at any photos, then I dove in once again last night. This time, I came across a few short videos of my son as a toddler and my brother’s voice or laughter is in them. There’s one video in particular that my entire family knows and we’ve all watched it probably countless times just to hear Phil’s voice and laughter. He’s reading to my toddler and it’s sweet and funny and wonderful. My now 15-year-old son came over to me as I started to go through the videos, and he asked to watch and listen to that one video a couple of times. “I haven’t heard his voice in years, Mom. But it’s like my chest lit up when I heard him!” This kiddo of mine then thanked me and asked for a hug. ❤ I’m a really lucky mom.
So….that letter? I really thought this was the year, but I guess it’s not. I’m realizing now that I may not be able to write it again. Each year I did a bit of a recap of what was happening in all of our lives, and although we’ve made some wonderful memories in the past 5 years, we’ve also suffered so much loss that it’s difficult to do an annual letter without talking about who or what we no longer have.
Maybe a January letter about what we hope to accomplish in the new year? Maybe.
Until then, enjoy these pics of my dear big brother. If you watch the video, I hope you can see why I miss him so much. (And you can see what an annoying mom I can be.) Phil brought us so much joy and I am certainly grateful we have at least this video to refer to so we can see and hear him whenever we want. Obviously, it’s not the same as having him here with us, but it’s something.
Hugs to you all, my friends.