December 2nd is coming. Each year I can feel it. This year I can feel it even more.
My Christmas art show was dedicated to my friend, Tat. We had a corner dubbed “Tat’s Collection” filled with prints and cards inspired by her life and her writing. When I got up to the front to tell the people at the art show about this new collection, I could hardly speak.
Shouldn’t she be here? I thought.
Around this time last year, Tat was helping me prepare for last year’s art show. She and her boyfriend at the time — now fiancé — Matthew, ran one of my cash tables. They held hands the whole night. I rolled my eyes at their public display, but she could not stop smiling.
On Saturday I walked into The Spice Factory to set up for the art show. It was the same place we held it last year. It took my breath away with the memories.
I stood and looked at the cash tables. I could see Tat, standing there, just like she had last year. She wore dark lipstick, and smiled at each person, speaking softly to them, wishing them a Merry Christmas.
I blinked and she was gone all over again.
Tat would turn 21 on Sunday.
Her birthday is the same day my Grammy died. My Grammy died the same day Aaron Platzlu died. Tat and I were together in Peru when my Grammy and Aaron passed away. Aaron was one-day-old. I had never seen a casket so small.
It’s been three years since my Grammy and Aaron, three years since Tat hugged me and said, “I’m so sorry,” while I cried in the heat of South America before heading home to Grammy’s funeral. For three years, I have felt guilty for being in Peru that year instead of staying home to say goodbye to my grandmother. Now I am more grateful than ever for those six weeks with Tat.
My friend Danielle and I gave Tat a bracelet that year for her 18th birthday. We got it engraved. Grace upon grace. One of her favourite sayings.
I’ve been listening to Christmas music for a month now. Sometimes I think if I celebrate Christmas earlier, more hope will fill my heart. I keep ending up with melancholy Christmas songs on a loop. I skip Jingle Bells and listen to River over and over and over again.
Instead of the Christmas story, I find myself at the end of Matthew in my Bible. I read about the death of Jesus. I underline the section where Jesus calls Judas “friend”, even though he knows he’s about to betray him.
Today I read about the crown of thorns. Tomorrow I’ll read about his crucifixion.
And even though it’s almost December — even though mangers are more popular right now than crosses — I can’t help but find myself in the pages of the Bible filled with mourning and sadness.
I think about Jesus’ eyes. I don’t know why, but I often see them crying.
I keep crying, recently.
I cry when I pray. Sometimes my crying is my prayer.
I don’t know why. There are days where I’ll be driving — thinking of nothing in particular — and the next moment tears will be streaming down my face. I’ll look at the Christmas lights strung on the houses, and joy and sadness will fill my heart. They live together, side-by-side, within me.
I wept on Sunday when my niece and nephew were dedicated at church. I cried on Saturday night when I wished with all my heart that Tat could be at my art show. I even cried while watching a Hallmark movie.
I watch Hallmark movies because everything works out well in them. They end with Christmas kisses and snow falling. Even though they are the furthest thing from real life, I like them. “Let your heart be light,” and all that, even though these days my heart feels very heavy.
December 2nd is coming. A tender day to be sure — Aaron, and Grammy, and now, beautiful Tat.
Happy birthday, my friend. I miss you.