Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Christmas Before...

If you read my blog with any regularity, you are very clear on the fact that I am a University of Michigan football fan.

Two years ago, the University of Michigan football community received some very sad news when Lloyd Carr's grandson, Chad Carr was diagnosed with an inoperable form of child brain cancer.  The family had Michigan football ties for generations -- paternal grandfather, Lloyd Carr, but his maternal grandfather had University of Michigan football ties.  If I'm not mistaken, his parents met while students at UofM... they couple still lives in Ann Arbor, and the couple had three boys the youngest of whom was Chad.

Chad was diagnosed with this brain cancer and the family fought the cancer -- not only fought the cancer but created an organization, a movement, a hashtag -- #chadtough.  The entire Michigan community and people around the world were pulling for Chad, and supporting ChadTough.

Chad died about fifteen months after the cancer diagnosis -- just before Christmas last year.

I still follow his mother's ChadTough posts on facebook (because the ChadTough organization is still going strong raising money, awareness, and research for child cancer).  She mentioned that it was a quiet Christmas, and they did not send out Christmas cards this year, so she shared their Christmas pictures from the last five years and they tell such a story:






 You can see the happy, carefree family they were in 2012 and 2013.  
Then, 2014, just a few months after Chad's diagnosis, when they are fighting as a family, and the older brother is wearing a ChadTough shirt.  They are optimistic and getting through this together.  
Then, 2015, they actually celebrated Christmas early because Chad did not make it to Christmas.  What a toll Cancer has taken on their sweet little boy.
Then, Christmas 2016 when life goes on, even when sometimes you don't want it to.  I feel for those brothers because they are kids... but they are not kids anymore.  They are still living their childhood, but their childhood completely changed with the illness and death of their brother... but I digress.

These pictures absolutely touched my heart when their mother shared them a few days ago, but what surprised me most was the picture I was most drawn toward -- 2013.

This is their picture before.  This is their picture before the fight, before the death, before the cancer... before.  This was the Christmas before they were in the fight of their lives.  This was the Christmas before their world was rocked and turned upside down.  This was the Christmas when (probably) their biggest burden was juggling relatives and in-laws and making sure their was enough turkey to feed everyone.  This is the Christmas they will look back on for years and wish they could go back to such trivial concerns. 

Why will I line my little ones up in front of the Christmas tree every single year to take the same picture of them smiling?  Well, for one, it is a fun way to document their growth.  But the truth is, we never know if and when it will be our Christmas before... Our Christmas before something changes.

I'd like to think tragedy will never touch our family, and maybe it won't.  Maybe we will live beautifully ordinary lives where everyone we love will die at a ripe old age, ready to go to Heaven, sleeping soundly in their bed... but we don't know.
We don't know if and when it will be our Christmas before...

So, I line my beautiful, tired, sickly babies in front of the tree -- not even our tree because we're accidentally still at my in-laws house, and I take a picture of them:

And we pile all the cousins together looking adorable and jumbled and squirmy:

And we even occasionally try to take a really nice picture because we are freezing a moment in time.  A moment when times are joyful, and babies are plentiful, and laughter resounds.  And we never know when will be the Christmas before.


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