There’s been a lot going on in our world over the last month or so. Many distractions from our grief over the holidays, some good – others not. But before too much time passes, I wanted to share a story from Christmas.
When Rob and I started dating 11 years ago, we went to the mall and took a picture with Santa. As our relationship continued, we had conversations about making it a tradition to take a picture each year as our family grew and aged. We laughed at how our teenagers would one day hate it, but we’d do it anyway. We have a handful of pictures together before Scarlett arrived, a few as a family of three, and two years of pictures as a family of four, with Blake.
A year+ ago (Christmas of 2018), we unfortunately didn’t get to take our annual family picture with Santa at the mall. Blake had a crisis on Dec 9th, and once he was hospitalized – he didn’t leave medical care. And after December 19th, when we were flown to Texas Children’s, our family was then separated for the rest of the holidays, as Scarlett stayed in CA.
The big question this year was, do we resume the tradition of a family picture with Santa? Or, do we put that tradition to rest since our family is no longer intact? The thought of a current picture with one less child was pretty painful. We delayed. Contemplated and delayed some more. On the morning of December 24th, we made the split decision to do it. We were up early, decided to attempt to beat the mall chaos and be some of the first few in line. Without Blake there, we didn’t feel strongly about going to the same mall we have always gone to. So, this year it was a different location, different Santa and setup – but we were going to put our sadness aside and just do it for Scarlett.
After a short wait, it was our turn. Scarlett was over the moon excited to talk Santa, and he was really a jovial fun guy. They had their conversation about whether she’s been a good girl, what she might like for Christmas, and then it was picture time. As we all huddled with Santa for the picture, he said the most unexpected and unbelievable thing… “Smile for Blakies.”
Rob and I were in complete disbelief and assessing what we just heard. We quickly figured out that Blake was the name of the gentleman taking the picture. What are the odds of that, and referring to him as Blakies? And then our feeling of surprise dropped to a gut bomb. Without a single word exchanged, we panicked that this is where it would go south. Over the last year, we’ve seen this wildly uncomfortable situation unfold about a dozen times. Here’s what we immediately envisioned happening:
Santa: Smile for Blakies
Scarlett: My brother’s name is Blake
Santa: How old is your brother? Where is he today?
Scarlett: My brother died.
Those words come out of her mouth at the most unpredictable times, mostly to unassuming strangers, and of course she has no idea of the gravity or the level of discomfort they bring to everyone within an ear shot of the conversation. The reality is that her innocence illuminates the truth, as difficult as it is. But this time – she didn’t share that piece of information. She just gave her big, beautiful, warm smile as Santa asked her to… for Blakies.
I can’t help but think about how magical it must have been from her perspective that Santa knew about her brother, and that Blake was there with us in spirit. We like to think that too.