Last holiday season our family found Bella in the most unlikely of places. The gift tags on the Christmas tree at Nordstrom.
I’m used to finding her in the darkness of our bedroom as I’m drifting off to sleep. Or in the rays of light streaming through our windows during a sunny day. Or in the 60 minute commute to work in the morning sipping my coffee and cursing traffic. But during a typical day, while running errands with the family she usually doesn’t appear.
But, on Black Friday 2011, there she was.
We went out waaaay after the throes of crazed midnight madness shoppers and surprisingly our local shopping mall was not crowded. I had a short list of gifts to buy, but we were mostly there to window shop. As we meandered through the beautifully decorated holiday displays at Nordstrom there was a tree from across the store that caught my eye. All over the tree were hanging tags. Gift tags. Hundreds of them.
The year we lost Bella, a friend and fellow family of loss told us their tradition of adopting a Salvation Army angel each year in honor of the son they lost. They pluck an angel from the local Salvation Army angel tree. An angel who would be the same age as the one they lost. They buy that child what they are most wishing for. A child who without their help would have no gifts at Christmas. The tradition struck a chord with us, and we decided to take part in the same tradition as well.
I thought the tree in Nordstrom that day was our local Salvation Army tree ready and waiting for us to find our 2011 angel.
My husband and I walked over to take a closer look, and as we approached the tree I heard him whisper under his breath “Bella would be 2 this year. WOW.” As we looked back and forth between the tree, each other, and the stroller toting our then one year old Brielle, I think we both had an out of body experience.
Whose life were we living?
We should’ve been parents to a 2 year old. Walking, talking, sitting on Santa’s lap babbling away about the doll she wants. But instead we were looking down at one year old. Giggling, squirming, and simply loving every minute of just being with her mom and dad.
In that moment, standing there in silence, we weren’t sure whether to mourn what we had lost or be excited for what we had gained.
That tree ended up not being the Salvation Army tree after all. But it didn’t matter, because simply staring at that tree and remembering her was enough.
The 3 of us could feel her presence and we were reminded that she is always there, watching over us.
Have you ever had an unexpected ‘visit’ from your angel(s)? What special traditions do you have to honor your angel(s) during the holidays? How to do you keep their memory alive? Please tell me about it in the comments below today.