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And so it was Christmas....

Dan passed at a tough time. Immediately following his death was our 20th anniversary, his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas...

I thought Christmas would be the hardest because I have never gotten up alone on Christmas and had no one to open gifts with. Who was even going to give me gifts? Not that the gifts matter to me, but it just felt so lonely.

My first instinct was to say " screw Christmas." I was not going to have a tree or acknowledge the holiday in any fashion.

But then I asked myself what Dan would want for me. I think he chose to move on so I could have a life back. He always felt that he held me back so young in life and I felt he sacrificed himself for me to live.

So I chose to live for him.

I declared I was going to have an Open House with local friends, family and co-workers. I relegated a friend to help decorate ( Ok, she did it ALL) and I sent out invites, came up with a menu and planned a memory tree in Dan's honor.

The house never looked so beautiful! Sue and I lugged in an 8 foot tree and set that bad boy up! We stood on chairs to string the lights and to hang the bulbs.

Sue added fresh greenery everywhere and it looked so gorgeous. She brought up her decorations and used some of mine and transformed the house to a 1770 old fashioned home at Christmas.

I wanted to keep Dan's spirit at the Open House, but not to make it sad. I asked people to write out a memory or anything about Dan and hang it on the tree. I would open them on Christmas morning and read them. The cards were my gifts.

I told people to sign the card or leave it anonymous. It didn't matter to me who wrote the card, I just wanted to read people's memories or thoughts about him.

The tree looked beautiful with all these cards of love written to Dan. I could see and feel the love for him. Of course, I was dying to read the cards, but I knew it would be special on Christmas morning and so I resisted.

I got up on Christmas morning and wished Molly a Merry Christmas. I went downstairs and made some coffee and took down each card. There were 21 in all. I wished Dan a Merry Christmas and told him that I was opening the cards written to him. I told him that so many people loved and missed him, as did I.

I wasn't sure if I was going to be an emotional wreck reading the cards and maybe it would be a big mistake, but it was the complete opposite. The cards were funny, serious, heartfelt and loving. They gave me great peace to read about how Dan affected everyone's life. One card was so beautiful speaking about how great a man Dan was and if this young man could be half the man Dan was he would be honored.

I felt like Dan was with me as I was reading each card. Love filled my heart and how could I feel sad when I was reading about so much love for him?

Danny came by later and read the cards himself. He laughed at some, he cried at some...

I opened the gifts some people brought me and I had an amazingly, surprisingly peaceful and fulfilling morning remembering Dan.

I had two choices; feel sorry for myself and allow him to die in vain OR to celebrate his life with people who loved him and me. Either way, Dan wasn't going to be here and it was my choice how to handle it.

I chose to honor him in the best way I knew how.

Merry Christmas, honey. I love and miss you everyday, but I know you were here in spirit. You could feel the love, that's him.

I wasn't sure if I was going to be an emotional wreck read butbut ut it