Legos. A large bag of Legos. This is perfect!!
Emilie, my little creator. She loved to build like her imagination was linked directly to her hands. She would build tall buildings, homes, airports and roads with cars traveling quickly through the streets. Legos are perfect, I thought. I held that bag of Legos under my arm and continued down the aisle of the store. It was December 14th and I didn't have many shopping days left till Christmas.
That moment. That very moment has played over and over and over and over again in my mind, hundreds of times. That moment was the same moment my Emilie was being killed in her first grade classroom... and I was picking out Legos.
I remember a little while later, still shopping at that same store, I received an automated phone message telling me there was a shooting at a Newtown school. I instantly felt a pit in my stomach. Unknowingly my hands started to shake and my heart was pounding. Without even thinking, with no idea as to what I should do next, I grabbed Samantha, walked up to the register and bought the bag of Legos for Emilie.
The next day, December 15th, is still a blur to me. I couldn't believe that Emilie was really gone. I just remember fuming with annoyance; everyone around me was busy running around taking care of all the necessary arrangements: funeral, press, morgue, flights, packing. I sat on a couch, watching everyone else give so much love and service to my family, and my mind was somewhere else. She was gone... and it was too much.
My mind was dazed and oblivious to the details that needed to be taken care of, until it focused on one thought. Like finally hearing the constant drip of a faucet in an otherwise silent room. Her Christmas presents. Robbie and I had put them in the attic for safekeeping till Christmas. That one thought smoldered in my mind: her presents, she won't be able to open her presents. Suddenly that thought caught flame and it was too painful.
"I want her Christmas presents out of here."
"I want her Christmas presents out of here!"
I want her Christmas presents out of here!!"
I don't know who actually heard me -- or maybe they just reacted when they saw me get up and pull down the ladder to the attic. Someone stopped me and quickly retrieved the presents from the attic. There they were: a stack of hundreds of colored papers, toys, crafts, markers and more. My heart burned white hot and I could feel it burning within me.
"Out! I need these OUT of the house!" My heart screamed to my head and I couldn't think of anything else. I grabbed bags and furiously began sorting Emilie's gifts from Madeline's and Samantha's. I didn't cry, I acted quickly. "I want these donated... Now!" I said firmly. "Someone take them out to the car now. I can't have them here in this house." As the bag left my house, I sat back down on the couch and went back to blankly staring at all the busy people walking around my house.
Two years later and I am still dealing with the triggers of buying my sweet loved ones gifts for Christmas. It still hurts every time I walk up and down the toy department at any store. She died while I was Christmas shopping -- how could I not hate it. It will take a long time to really address all the hundreds... thousands of triggers I face on a daily basis. It is real and it is not easy.
The other night I hit a breaking point and I found myself crying alone on my bed. Then my hand was touched by the warm, yet sticky, fingers of my daughter Madeline. She held a lollipop in one hand and my hand in the other. I smiled and pulled her on the bed next to me. I was so overcome by the love I have for Madeline and my family. That love is SO intense and strong that it began to change the direction of those thoughts running through my head. Christmas shopping, buying gifts is a trigger and brings real pain. However, with Madeline's touch, I felt His love, which is His gift, and that gift gives me the courage to continue each day, fighting to be worthy of it.