On the TODAY show this morning, Meredith Vierra sat down with the Roberts family, who are facing their third Christmas without their Dad. Casey Roberts, husband to Denise and father of daughter Kaylin and son Keeghan, was killed in Afghanistan in 2008. The segment, called “Getting to the Heart of Christmas,” was meant to be somber and touching, and the pre-recorded portion certainly was. But as soon as Vierra began the live interview, it was clear that Keeghan’s sense of holiday joy was alive and well.
If you’re impatient, forward to the 3:00 mark. You won’t be able to stop yourself from smiling as Vierra asks, “So what are your dreams and hopes for this Christmas, Denise?” and Roberts responds, “I just wanna see my kids smile… sometimes we get lost in the grief,” as her son Keeghan dances around, shouting that he can see himself on TV. It’s a great testament to the way kids can really lighten the load when times are tough.
This is my third Christmas without my Dad as well, and the first Christmas I’ll be spending without my daughter, though of course we’re having our own celebration a few days before. I found this video to be a charming reminder of the notion that no matter the changes and difficulties we go through in life, time marches on, and it’s up to us to find new ways to enjoy ourselves.
The first year without a loved one is awful, and my first Christmas without my Dad was also my first Christmas without a husband. It was very quiet, as you can imagine, but very special, too. We weren’t showered with gifts from Wal*Mart like the Roberts family, but my mother and I created a wonderful holiday for my daughter out of thin air nonetheless. We got all dressed up for church on Christmas Eve, then left cookies for Santa that night. Santa left us a note in return, and presents, too. My mother cooked a complete holiday meal on Christmas Day. She might have eaten alone if she didn’t have a Granddaughter to dote over.
It’s amazing how having a child around after the death of a loved one can really help put things in perspective. I’ll never forget one night, shortly after my Dad died, I was sitting at the dinner table with my daughter and my ex when I suddenly started crying. My daughter, only two then, asked me what was wrong, and I said, “I miss Grandpa.” She looked at me and softly said, “I miss Grandpa, too.” Of course I’m quite sure that in reality she didn’t miss her Grandpa, that she was just mirroring my emotions trying to comfort me. But in that moment, I felt like not only did this little angel seated next to me understand everything I was going through, she knew I was going to be all right. And I was, thanks to her.
So here’s to my family and the Roberts family and all the other families out there who have dealt with loss in the past few years; may your celebrations this year be truly merry and bright.