It’s Christmas Eve, 2013.
The apartment is quiet, except for the clicking of my keys as I type and the odd sounds of celebration filtering up from party-goes downstairs on the waterfront.
I am alone.
Technically, my husband is here, but he’s asleep after working the 24 hour trade on the 23rd. He works very hard and although it can be lonely for me and draining for him, it’s a gift. Being alone is different to being lonely, and although I have my days where I feel alone, I know I am blessed.
Each new Christmas comes, and I find myself looking to the past and remembering the ones before. So much can change in 8 years, and I feel as if someone hit the fast forward button on my life over the last 3.
Christmas 2005, Perth. I was 22 and lonely, and full of confusion about my life, where it was going, who I was and how I fit in the world. I was so full of hurt, confusion and loneliness despite being surrounded by loved ones far and wide.
Christmas 2006, Sydney. My heart was in flutters as I had just started the most important relationship on earth with my now husband. Our first Christmas as a couple was our last Christmas apart, or at least I pray that this be so. My first nephew had been born a month earlier. I was an aunt.
Christmas 2007. Adelaide. Anderson family Christmas. Cody was in that ridiculously cute baby stage. Life was as perfect as it could be. We spent the day on the deck of our beautiful home in the Adelaide Hills. I felt truly at peace and content with life, even though I was in transition. I had just finished my time at College, and felt I was well on my way to the life I had hoped for.
Christmas 2008. Jasper, Canada. After a false start to my life in Melbourne we relocated for a working holiday. Feeling very shaken by my experience in Melbourne and the rejection I faced after opening myself to a new life, a new church and new people, I retreated to the mountains to lick my wounds. At my heaviest, my weight had suffocated me, and I happily medicated with food in the sub-zero climate of the Rocky Mountains. I had surrendered the way I thought my life would play out, begrudgingly, but surrendered all the same. The future was still to be determined.
Christmas 2009. Adelaide. A quiet Christmas at home with Mum, Dad and Stu. The word Cancer had become part of our lives, my brother drifted in and out of a chemotherapy induced haze. It was as if the world had gotten very loud and dead silent all at the same time. I let go once again of my plans for how I thought my life was going to be, but all in all, I was content.
Christmas 2010. Perth. The beginning of the end. Kristian’s condition rapidly worsened during his time with us in Perth. He suffered a bowel obstruction and underwent emergency surgery in early 2011. We didn’t realise it, but the end was rapidly approaching. We sweltered through the 40 degree days in Perth and tried to enjoy the time with all the family together. I had finally been diagnosed with anxiety, and it made sense for the first time in my life why I was so anxious and worried all the time. I ignored what was going on around me and drowned myself in reading to escape. Tensions rose, our family was stretched to breaking point. I shut down my heart and retreated into silence, too afraid to speak up, too beaten down to dream beyond the next day or two. I felt like a 90 year old in a 27 year old’s body. Still obese, struggling to accept myself and the direction of my life, or lack thereof. While my brother’s body was shutting down, so was my heart.
Christmas 2011. Sydney. Manly Hospital. Finding joy in the few things he had left, we took the Christmas feast to Kristian. After so many vibrant, jovial Christmases as a family this was the hardest and most cherished one we spent together. I have two nephews now, Cody is 5, Jakob is 3. They are mostly unaware of what is happening, or so we think. At the end of the day Jakob asks Kristian “Daddy? Are you going to died?”
Wearing a new engagement ring and having finally gotten on top of my weight, on the outside my life was starting to look the part. On the inside, my heart was frozen. I now face the reality that in the next few weeks, my brother is going to die, and I am going to have a wedding day without him. He passes away January 2nd, 2012. I weep as I leave the hospital on December 26th, knowing in my heart I would not see my brother alive again.
Christmas 2012. Melbourne. My name is now Mrs Walker. We were married just over a month earlier, and had not much money to our name after the wedding and honeymoon. Life is hard, but good. I can feel the ice around my heart creaking and moaning, like ice does right before it shatters and melts. Something is stirring inside me. My heart is starting to come alive. My life is not how I had planned in my teenage years, but I am finally on my way to finding my feet and loving myself again. After years of keeping silent and shutting down, my heart feels a flicker of life again.
Christmas 2013. Melbourne. I am missing my family but at the same time working on my own. What strikes me with great poignancy is just how much I’ve changed. My heart feels lighter. I am finally at a place where I love and accept myself, and dream again. The hole Kristian left never grows smaller — it was a space he alone held. But I come up to the 2 year mark of his passing and I feel a sense of hope and joy I can’t describe. At least not yet. He paved a path with his life that has made way for me to pursue my own. I am finally walking the path; differently to how I imagined I would, but following in his steps all the same.
I sit, alone, watching the lights twinkle on our tree in our small apartment in the city of Melbourne, and I count my blessings, thankful for the last 8 years. Thankful for the journey to reclaim my identity and my dreams. And I am reminded of this lyric in my favourite carol.
“A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
A thrill of hope.
Yes, that about describes it.