Last Christmas Eve, Jacob came home from the hospital. Two days before we were given his sentence. How do you sum up a lifetime in three days? How do you do all of this during the season of perpetual hope? Well, we did. Jacob received and reciprocated that love. We all cried. We even laughed a little. On Christmas Day, his friends and family filled our house. While conversations in the basement and the adjacent rooms to his were somber, his was filled with love. Moreover, his conversations were of fond memories and tight bonds. There were very few goodbyes. There were far more “see ya Butze.” This may because these kids were 19-21. I don’t think so. I think it’s because his friends and family know Jacob will never leave us and when we make it to that great “reward” (I am not a fan of that saying), he will be the first to greet us. That’s Jacob.
I was raised a UCC Protestant and worked my way through a few different religions before settling on Judaism. This is not the blog to go into much detail about my true beliefs. I will say I live in a fluid world and have an amalgamistic (not really a word) approach to religion. Among that, is my love and belief in Christmas. It has always been my favorite holiday and never for the reasons most love it. While I like presents, I never needed them. I also never bought into the idea of the story of Christmas. My beliefs have always been more because of the spirit of mankind and the season of perpetual hope. I believe in Santa in an existential way. He’s an ideology.
So, Jacob died at Christmas time. Did this happen to crush my favorite time? Am I being paid back for something I did once? No! That’s an emphatic NO. The day or time mean nothing. Any day would have been too soon. This is the time to slow down a bit. This is the time to love a little more. This is the time of the year when many people aren’t working. Special shout of love to my niece Abby, sister Kelly, nephew Kyle and ALL first responders and others who are working.
Christmas is not ruined. This is our first year without him, yes. It sucks and it has taken a lot for us to wake up, get dressed and face the world. I am not denying the difficulty. I also see so much love surrounding us. I see my sweet Ana laughing with her cousins from both sides. I had the pleasure of watching Naomi, Hallie, Tracy, and Becky hanging out at the kitchen counter sharing stories and a laugh. We hurt. We cry. We do it while also living and loving. I feel the season of perpetual hope. It’s dulled, but it’s still there.
This year, the Butzes are down two people and four pets. We lost sweet Jacob and Tracy’s mother, Grammy. We also lost two dogs and two cats. I cannot say that I felt a wave of Jacob or Grammy’s spirit rush through my body. It’s not that magical. I felt it more by virtue that we have all been able to get up and face the world. Jacob motivates us every day. Without Jacob’s strength, I would be paralyzed. His love of life and “seize every moment” attitude, has guided my every move.
Tonight, we all met at my brother’s house for dinner. We added the Dallets. Our family shared love. The kids reconvened in celebration for once. We ate traditional German Stollen, homemade from Oma Shaffrick’s recipe. I read, “Twas the night before Christmas” to the entire family with my typical inflection and accent. We continued without Jacob in the physical. We didn’t play our usual Euchre games. I didn’t go to midnight mass, as usual but we still did the important things. We came together in love!
Tomorrow, Hallie will make her insanely great Christmas dinner. Naomi will make crepes. We will open presents. Jacob will be there. He will be our guiding light. It won’t be the same and I cannot lie and pretend it will be. That will not diminish our love and strength as a family to persevere. This is the Season of Perpetual Hope. I know Jacob isn’t coming back because he’s never left. I love you sweet prince and every shed tear comes with a wonderful memory of knowing the greatest man I’ve ever met.
We all hurt. If this is a year when things are better than they’ve ever been, then embrace every second. Do NOT hold back. These moments, days, months, years should be celebrated. Smile, love, and practice gratitude. At the same time, keep in mind those who are struggling and share the love. Spread HOPE!