Christmas Eve

It's the best night of the year for young children. And for parents of young children. As I watch Shannon lying here, I can't help but think of those early Christmases. Shannon, our first born and the first grandchild and first niece on my side of the family. On the other end of the spectrum, she is grandchild number 18 on the O'Hara side. She truly has the best of both worlds - one side to spoil her rotten with attention and one side to fill a room with voices of love and laughter.

I think back to the craziness of trying to have the "perfect" gift for Shannon from Santa each year. One year it was the toy kitchen, complete with pots and pans and all the little toy food you could imagine. One year it was the toy vanity with makeup and a mirror that had a button you could push to make it light up and this little voice would say phrases like, "You are pretty!" or "Oh, how beautiful you are!"

Toy kitchen, toy vanity ... and I thought of myself as a feminist! But, at the time, it seemed important to get her what she wanted. I was trying to be a good mom. The wow of Christmas morning ... it would make those big beautiful brown eyes light up.

I also reflect on these memories, because as she grew into a pre-teen and then a teenager, she wasn't bound by the traditional. She wasn't afraid to be herself. She doesn't wear makeup, has never asked to. (It's comforting to me that I didn't scar her with that toy vanity thing!) She's avoided middle school girl drama by just being a good person, being kind. By believing in herself and not needing to prove herself to anyone. We heard such beautiful words today from a couple of Shannon's teachers about the kind of person she is and what she's meant to them. Those words brought us to tears.

I find myself sitting here thinking about Erin. An old soul. Thank goodness for that. She is watching her sister slip away and handling it with courage and grace. She will feel the love and the pain of this Christmas forever. She will be the one in our family to carry on our memories.

But, she's been preparing for that job since she was a toddler. Those early Christmases would play out like this: Shannon, a ball of energy, bouncing off the walls with excitement. And Erin, idolizing her sister, sitting back, observing, taking it all in. She gathered a lot of information by being quiet, being still, listening. She still does.

We spent today with a few close friends this morning and then my family this afternoon. For my brother Eric, his wife Jen, and their kids Laurynn and Jack, this was a tough day. Shannon is slipping further. Less time awake today. Less responsive today. Slipping ...

So now it's time to tuck in on another Christmas Eve. There is nothing I could put under the tree this year to make those big brown eyes light up. So, give us another day. Give us Christmas Day with the O'Haras.

Sleep tight, everyone.