As another Christmas approaches without my daughter I find myself finally able to enjoy moments of Christmas without breaking down into a sobbing mess. For example, I was able to hang the stockings on the mantle, including Danielle’s, without a tear leaking from my eye. Today I was able to sing in the car without having to pull off the road because of hysteria. And I can even look at pictures of Christmases gone by and recall the joy we all felt being together instead of focusing on the pain of one child forever gone.

There are still moments that I find myself crying- and it’s almost always because of a song. There are a few songs I cannot listen to without tears such as Blake Shelton, “I’ll be home for Christmas” or The Carpenters, (don’t judge) “There’s no place like home for the holidays.” Besides the meaning behind the songs I remember vividly Dani saying she would listen to them because I loved them so much. Trust me, our taste in music was like night and day! Can you say Tupac?

But as these weeks and months move into years, I notice things feeling a bit different this year. I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or not, but my heart is not crumbling with every Christmas memory that pops into my head. I am grateful I can temporarily put the pain in the back of my mind and catch moments of joy during the holidays.

I am able to finally rejoice with the light and laughter of my grandchildren as they giggle and count down the days until Santa Claus arrives. I am so touched by my grandson as he points out all the pieces of my many nativity sets. “Grandma, this is one of the three wise men, and this is Mary, Jesus’ mom!” The conversations that evolve from those moments are deep and special.

My husband and I still laugh reliving our granddaughter’s first Christmas preschool concert this year where she was able to be the Virgin Mary. Well, one of four Marys that is. She was so excited! We drove over 3 hours because we had an out of town commitment that day and were 3 minutes late. Fortunately, we caught her moment of glory in the… wait for it.. 13 minute program! What a treasure! Three years ago I am not certain that I would have been able to do that. But her zest and enthusiasm makes my heart feel peace and that is huge for my growth in this unasked for journey of grief.

With just a few days left until Christmas morning, we are making a huge effort to see all nine grandchildren in their homes this year to celebrate Christmas. Losing Danielle made us realize we wanted to start new traditions so the huge hole in our life would not be the only thing we feel.

Our first stop on our Christmas 2022 journey, includes our three dogs, two seniors and a new wild rescue pup, for an 8 hour drive to Charlotte. The trip involved snacks, lots of Christmas Sing Alongs as well as a “quick” pit stop for gas, to let the dogs eat and do their business. Somehow this stop turned into a 45 minute comedy show resulting in me losing our car keys for at least 10 minutes, Rusty (our 15 year old) refusing to go potty and Mickey, Dani’s dog, refusing to eat.

As we got on our way one of my absolute favorite songs, “Mary Did You Know?” began to play. My mind took a trip to just last year when I penned a song for Dani to be played to that tune. It took no time at all to write, yet I poured my whole heart and soul into it. If you are familiar with that song, you may appreciate this. At some point I hope to be able to listen to it sung by someone other than me hearing it in my mind. I mean no disrespect to the true Christian meaning of the song, but it still proves to be another healing moment for me on this road of life without Dani.

“Dani did you know? That the day you died you made our whole world cry. Dani did you know? That the day you died we all would wonder why?Did you know that the hearts you broke would never want to beat? But they fought the fight to crush the fears that you could not defeat.

Dani did you know? That your legacy would one day save a life? Dani did you know? That the price you paid would lessen someone’s strife? Did you know that your dreams came true though you have left this earth? And the hearts that broke and shattered would one day find rebirth. Dani did you know? Dani did you know? Dani did you know?

Their pain would leave, their fears removed, and strength would rise again. Depression crushed, their sadness gone, Their light would shine again.

Dani did you know? That the day you died we promised to give hope? Dani did you know? That we’d hide our tears and somehow try to cope? Did you know? That the lives you saved would live and breath as new? And they’ll rise again, hope restored, God gave this gift to you.

Dani did you know? Dani did you know? Dani did you know? Oh Dani did you know?”

-Dani’s Mom 8/7/2020