To our son on your first Christmas,
we wish you were on earth.
But you are in heaven with Jesus,
to celebrate his birth.
We hung up your stocking,
and have pictures of you all around.
We know you are in heaven,
with God and the angels smiling down.
I wrote this poem for Daniel as we celebrated his first Christmas this year. The Christmas we envisioned back in March was very different from our celebration this December. Instead of holding my baby in church singing Silent Night by candle light, I was crying from the grief of losing him this Christmas. Daniel wasn't here in my arms and I will never get to spend a Christmas with my son here on earth. I look forward to the time when I will celebrate with him in heaven since I never got to share the joy with him here. It was a difficult year for me because all my soul could do was cry for my baby. I missed him so much that I left our family celebration on Christmas Eve to visit his gravesite. My heart was broken because he wasn't there with the rest of our family. So I went to him, to spend time where his body is resting. It was healing for me to spend some of the time that night with him.
As soon as we woke on Christmas morning, we went out to Daniel's grave. We cried and held each other wishing him a Merry Christmas and telling him about his gifts. For Christmas, Bill and I gave each other gifts from Daniel and bought him a gift from each of us. I gave Bill a "daddy" ornament from his son and he gave me a spa retreat. In Daniel's stocking we placed his gifts, a mini plush football from his daddy, and a "First Christmas" baby giraffe ornament from his mommy. We cried for a long amount of time thinking of our baby who is not here with us. I prayed, asking God to give Daniel a hug and some kisses from us for Christmas. The only way I coped with not having him here was by crying for him and imagining him up in heaven celebrating Jesus' birthday in the arms of our Lord. One comfort I had was knowing that Daniel's spirit was with us during Christmas. At Christmas Eve mass Bill felt someone brush against his shoulder, yet no one was there. We believe it was Daniel's spirit letting us know he was there celebrating his first Christmas with us. The signs of his presence help give us some comfort by knowing he is surrounding us each day. And having him give us a sign at mass was very special to us. Merry Christmas Daniel John!
I go to Daniel's grave every day or so since it gives me peace. Even though I know his spirit is around me, there is some solace in standing there where his body is at rest. My husband usually goes with me about once a week, which I respect as what he needs to do to grieve. Daniel's grave has a simple, yet beautiful, little wooden cross marking it until we get the headstone once the weather breaks. My sister made the cross to take out when we buried him because I couldn't bury him without something marking his name on his grave. She made it from a wooden pallet and wrote, "Daniel John Dice, November 6, 2015, 89 minutes". Just enough to identify who he was and the miracle of the time we got with him. On each side of the cross I put some Christmas-type flowers so he would have some decoration for the holiday, but I wanted something more. I talked to my husband about purchasing a grave blanket for which he agreed with. On the day I was preparing to call around town for one, he sent me a message saying a student was selling them for a fundraiser. He ordered the grave blanket which was in the shape of a cross, which was perfect for Daniel. When my husband went to pay for the cross, a few days later, he was told that it was already paid in full. One of his co-workers had heard that he was purchasing it for Daniel's grave and purchased it for us. We were both so touched by the kindness shown towards us and our son by this action.
When Bill came home from work yesterday with the grave blanket, I was eager to go out to finish decorating Daniel's grave. We went out this morning to place the pine cross on his grave and I wasn't ready for the grief that came with it. When we got to the cemetery and parked along the road it hit me. We were here putting a "grave blanket" on Daniel's grave, my son's grave. This wasn't supposed to happen like this. Daniel wasn't supposed to die. My mind raced as I walked to his grave alongside Bill who was crying the pine cross. How could it be that for Christmas this year the gift I got my son was a pine cross? When we got to the grave Bill laid the cross down on the fresh topsoil that covered Daniel's grave and we both burst into tears. All we could do was cry and hold each other overlooking our son's grave. After our emotions subsided, we put an angel light beside his grave and attached a little red stocking. I was upset that Daniel would celebrate his first Christmas without any of the normal Christmas items, so I decided I was getting him a stocking for his grave. We finished arranging his things and as we stood back to look at our work the tears came again. I thought about all the Christmas memories that were taken from me when Daniel was taken. So I wept. I wept for my baby boy who would spend his first Christmas and every Christmas that follows in heaven. I wept for every Christmas I will spend here without him laughing, singing, and playing. I wept for Bill who will never get to spend Christmas morning putting together Daniel's toys with him. But most of all I wept for the pain I felt realizing that every year for Christmas,instead of buying items for my son to open, I will be buying a pine cross.
When I found out I was going to be a mommy in early December I was so excited to have my baby here for Christmas this year. I planned in my mind all the "First Christmas" ornaments I could get and what I might buy for presents. Plus, I couldn't wait to pick out a stocking that my baby would hang up year after year with ours. I thought about making little ornaments for our family from our baby's hand and footprints as their gifts and began looking up ideas for Christmas keepsakes. My sister was also expecting her first child so my mind started planning all the things Baby Dice would share with a same aged cousin. It was so exciting to imagine having two new babies in the family for Christmas after so many years of no children. Then, our July doctor's visit sent all those dreams spiraling downward along with my plans for the future. It wasn't until after Daniel died that I fully realized I would not have a baby at Christmas. There won't be piles of presents with Daniel's name under the tree or pictures of him hanging his stocking every year. There won't be laughing and cuddling with my newborn son on Christmas morning or yearly pictures with Santa. There won't be countless photos of us with Daniel at Christmas or tears of joy as we sing Silent Night by candlelight at church. And worst of all, there won't be a baby in my arms because Daniel won't be here. My mind has been reeling over this reality and I don't know how to have Christmas without him.
I kept thinking, how could we do anything for Christmas without Daniel? How do we move forward without our son here? How will we make it through his first Christmas without him? I have realized we need to take our days one at a time to survive the grief especially now. Our tradition has always been to get a real tree, but this year we were lucky to get our fake one, that usually goes on our second floor, out at all. My husband and I began to put up the tree in our living room the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but the pain was unbearable. Once we got the tree set up, we were both crying and couldn't continue decorating. The following day we put all the ornaments on and made Daniel a special part of our tree just for him. We are trying to make Daniel a part of our Christmas so we can manage through the pain. We want him to be part of our celebration because he will always be a part of our family. His stocking is hanging between ours and it will be hung there each year. His ornaments are on the tree and we will lovingly place them there every Christmas. I don't honestly know how I will continue on through Christmas this year without Daniel, but I will pray for strength. I will take each day as it comes and have comfort in knowing that Daniel will always be included in our family's Christmas even though it's not the way I dreamed it would be.
I became a mommy in 2015 to a beautiful baby boy, Daniel John, who taught me the depth of a mother's love and the sorrow of neonatal infant loss.