"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What I Really Want for Christmas


It might seem weird that I’m writing this to you since you’re gone and there’s no possible way for you to read it, but it makes me feel better to address my thoughts to you today.  It’s the holidays, so of course I’m sentimental and can’t help but think about you.  You hated the holidays because they reminded you of everything you wanted but didn’t have.  A family. Someone to love and cherish you.  A life partner by your side.  For me it’s different.  I have Gillian, so luckily I’m never completely alone.  The thing I’m struggling with this year is the question about what I want for Christmas.  I know when people ask they don’t realize it’s a painful question.  They just want to give me something meaningful and thoughtful.  How do I kindly tell them that it’s not possible for anyone to give me what I truly want?

I got the best Christmas present of my life two years ago.  Even then I cherished it.  Remember that year?  It was a tough one for you with lots of personal struggles and life decisions weighing on you, and you were absolutely dreading the holidays.  We were both going to be pretty much alone for Christmas and spent a lot of time talking about how to handle it.  Should we just pretend Christmas wasn’t happening?  Go somewhere far away together and enjoy ourselves on a sunny beach with cute cabana boys bringing us fruity tropical drinks?  Show up to all the family-centric gatherings alone and try not to notice that we’re the only single ones there?  None of the options were that feasible for me because Gillian would be with me for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning that year.

Not too long before Christmas, you called and surprised me with the announcement that you’d decided to come spend Christmas at my house.  It was the perfect solution!  Suddenly, I couldn’t wait for Christmas.  I did some last minute shopping for you so you’d have some gifts to open on Christmas morning.  Shopping for you was fun.  I was as excited about seeing you open your gifts on Christmas morning as I was about seeing Gillian open hers.    

You flew in late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve.  I’ll never forget picking you up at the airport that day.  Ever the efficient traveler, you told me to pick you up curbside at passenger pick-up.  As Gillian and I approached the curb we saw you, standing in your stylish tailored coat, jeans, high heel boots and a red Santa hat!  You were grinning from ear to ear, completely pleased with yourself.  You were silly, happy, and giggling as you got in the car.  We were all giddy with excitement.  I don’t know if you realized what an absolute gift you were to me that year.   You showed up like the perfect, last-minute present, bringing your  delightful smile and contagious energy to all your friends and family in Utah.

We went from the airport directly to the Christiansen family Christmas Eve party.  Everyone was so happy and surprised to see you.  Julie, did you feel how much we all loved and adored you?  Did you understand the happiness YOU, just your presence, brought to people? I hope so.

The next morning the three of us opened presents at my house.  Gillian loved having you all to herself I think.  I loved watching the two of you together that morning.  You were always so good with all of your nieces and nephews.  You understood and genuinely liked  all of them as the unique individuals they are.   It was a fun, relaxed morning.  We had breakfast burritos and played Milles Bourne in our pajamas for a long time.  It was fun teaching Gillian the game we’d played so often as children.  You had to do the teaching, as I’d pretty much forgotten how to play and kept messing up.  

You were here for several days so we got to spend a lot of time together, which was nice.  We went to Salt Lake to meet some of your old friends, spent a great afternoon at Snow Basin with the family, and just enjoyed hanging out together.  We had many heart-to-heart talks that week, as you were struggling with several major life decisions then, not sure which path to take.  I gave you that book “Settling For Mr. Good Enough”  trying to convince you not to disregard the Mr. Good Enough right in front of you in an elusive quest for Mr. Perfect.  You weren’t buying it.   A couple of months later you told me the book had come in handy.  As a security device.  You’d wedged it in the track of your sliding glass door to help keep out intruders.  Someday you’d read it you promised me.  It was still in your sliding glass door when I went to clean out your apartment after you died.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I didn’t take it, but I did take the things I’d so carefully chosen as gifts for you only a few months before.

Now, two years later, when I go to use one of the things I gave you (especially the As Seen On TV Open Anything blade/scissor combo.  You laughed when you opened it, then subsequently called me every time you used it to tell me how useful it was.) I think about that week.  Were our heart-to-heart talks really as honest as heartfelt as I thought they were?  What weren’t you telling me?  Were all the questions about what to do with your life just a cover up for the real issues you were struggling with?  Were you then struggling with life, period, trying to find the will to live?  Was that trip about goodbyes to friends and family you hadn’t seen for a long time?  It’s hard not to wonder and question.  It hurts me to think of the deep pain you were keeping from me.  I feel guilt that I was so caught up in my happiness of having you here,  I failed to see any pain behind those beautiful blue eyes of yours.

Of course questioning and second guessing gets me nowhere.  I’ll never have all the answers I want.  Instead I try, I really do, to focus on the memories, and be grateful for the happy times--the fact that you blessed your family and friends with 34 years of wonderful you.  Sometimes though, it just isn’t enough.  When I put up the candle wrapped with the quote “There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains” I cry bitter, sorrowful tears.  I don’t want a candle with a touching saying next to your picture.  I want you.  

Julie - Christmas 1976
Christiansen Kids - Christmas 1979


  1. Thank you for remember Julie in such a touching and beautiful way. My heart is with my beautiful children today who are sad and missing our bright Jul.

    We will always miss her, love her, and wonder why.

  2. I've learned reading your mother's and your blogs about the pain that suicide leaves and have been surprised at how that pain lingers...not surprised that you still miss her, but that the raw ache still comes unexpectedly. I just didn't know and still can't understand. This was a beautiful tribute and a reminder to me to tell those I love how I feel about them now, before it's too late.

    I hope the joy and beauty of the season brings you and your family peace. Merry Christmas!

  3. Keicha, this is incredibly beautiful. I have written to those no longer here and remembered the time we had that meant so much. Not weird at all, or I am, too. It is heartbreaking and eloquent and so authentic and real. Thank you for sharing with us. You remind us all of the challenges those around us are facing and to look inside them and understand.


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