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The complexity of my internal struggles these past few months has been too tiring to understand, let alone to try to put into words. So, this Christmas I managed to put up a tree, hang stockings and do a little baking. Though I feel less volatile and panicked, I don’t know that I will ever be able to say that I have healed. Which I suppose is to be expected.

Although sometimes it feels like people around me expect me to just “get over it” and “move on,” I try to be kinder than that to myself as I go forward in the best and only way I know how. I manage to get through most days remembering the joy that Noah brought, but there are still times when it all just kind of hits me. And people around me either understand or they don’t. I try to remember that the reactions and actions of others are more about them than they are about me. I have to take care of myself and not worry too much about what others think or say. Noah would want that. He would want me to take good care of myself.

Of course there are several things that are still difficult. I can’t come within a mile or so of the apartment complex where Noah lost his life. I can’t look at swimming pools or anything to do with swimming. I can’t walk past the little boys’ section at department stores. I can’t quite look at all the videos of Noah and Zoe playing together. And Christmas is worse. I still can’t watch Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph. I can’t stand Christmas carols. When I bake, I am still hyper-aware and meticulous about cleaning up any spilled flour, knowing how sick it would make Noah when he “got gluten-ed.”

The memories of Noah are bittersweet as I struggle to come to terms with the fact that this is my life now. He existed. He brought so much love and joy. But there isn’t a single thing I can do to change the past. I will never know why he had to die. I will never stop hurting.

But what I can do is honor him with my life. I can tell his stories. I can look around me and see all the people whose lives are forever changed because of this one little boy. I can laugh when I remember him, just as well as I can cry. I can choose to let go of the anger and anguish and I can choose to remember what he taught me. I can choose to be eternally grateful that I did not lose Zoe – that she is still here, growing, learning and loving.

I can choose gratitude because – after three major losses in my life in only six months’ time – if there is one thing I know, it is that everything can change in the blink of an eye. Nothing lasts and sometimes what you think you have a firm hold of can slip through your fingers before you know what happened. Savor every day. Let the furniture be dusty so that you can play that board game with your kids for the millionth time. Because time is precious.

This may not be the life I had planned. There are always going to be things that I CANNOT choose. All I can do – all any of us can do – is make the right choice right now in this moment. And I choose love. Because that’s one of the things I learned from Noah: if I can live the rest of this life with love as the foundation from which my choices and my life spills forth, I will have managed to truly live.