2014, Christmas shopping
I read a 1999 article in Bereavement Magazine that talked about "earthly angels"; friends, family members, and strangers who continue to share memories and reflections about our loved ones and listen when we tell our stories and support us in our efforts in learning how to live with and manage our grief.
Many of you (some I know, some I don't know) who comment and follow this website are among my "earthly angels". Thank you for your support in helping me work through my grief and keeping Steve's story alive.
Steve and I were lucky to have spent Christmas together for 33 years. We had our little holiday rituals one of which was shopping for stocking stuffers at the drug store the week before Christmas. Since Steve always liked to use my products (lotions, shampoo, etc), he would fill my stocking with those items (plus some other very special gifts) and I would fill his stocking with his own stock of my products so he would stop using mine. We always laughed that it was a win-win for Steve :-).
As for holiday decorations, we joked that our neighbors must have thought we were atheists, since we never had any outside lights, wreaths or menorahs. Steve and I were very content to enjoy the decorations our neighbor across the street put up every year (see photo). In 2012, we had coasters made with that photo and gave them to our neighbor as a Christmas gift.
When we first moved into our house in the late 1980s, we liked the idea of getting a live Christmas tree with a root ball so we could plant the tree in our yard and enjoy it year round. Only one of those trees actually survived. The nursery employee where we purchased the tree told us it was a miniature umbrella pine (wouldn't grow more than a few feet). I found the perfect spot in the yard for it. Only problem was that it wasn't a mini. It is now about 15 feet tall!
In 2014, I really thought Steve was turning a corner. One night, on a whim the week before Christmas, Steve said let's go to Roosevelt Field mall as he wanted to get some Christmas presents for his nieces. Of course, the mall was a zoo, but Steve was enjoying the moment and was excited to buy presents for his family. We went to Urban Outfitters and had our photos taken in their photo booth. I will cherish these photos and although they are not the best ones ever taken of us, they are a great reminder of one of the few remaining happy times we would be together before he passed.
I will end this post with my most favorite memory of Steve and Christmas. The US post office (USPS) has a program called Operation Santa Claus. USPS collects all the children's letters written to Santa Claus at the North Pole and allows the public to respond to these children. Back in the 80s, one could go to the main post office on 8th Avenue in NYC and choose a few letters to respond to. Some of them would break your heart. As examples, an 8 year old child asking for something nice for his mother because she worked so hard, or another from a 10 year old asking for a blanket for her little brother as he was always cold.
One year in the early 1980s that Steve and I participated in Operation Santa Claus, if we had mailed the gifts to the children whose letters we were responding to, they would not have arrived in time for Christmas. Steve insisted on driving over 60 miles round trip in holiday traffic to the Bronx so he could hand deliver the packages. He wanted the children to have their presents from Santa just in time for Christmas. No wonder I feel head over heels in love with this man.
Merry Christmas Steve. I miss you so much.
Our "miniature" umbrella pine tree
I recently discovered this digital image and found it to be very symbolic. It probably ended up on the cutting room floor during the production of Steve's 2006 yoga DVD due to the misspelling.
To many, Steve had it all and appeared to be 'on top of the world'. Hindsight is 20/20; we now know, things weren't always as they seemed with Steve. In many instances, people who suffer from depression/mental illness hide it very well. Speaking from my own personal experience with depression which was situational vs. clinical (what Steve suffered from), in the months after Steve passed, I would sometimes withdraw and not communicate with caring friends and family. This could also be a symptom of clinical depression. So, if someone close to you has a pattern of 'going dark' (not returning phone calls or emails etc.), it could be more than just them being busy or forgetful. When this happens too often, perhaps a little more compassion and understanding for that person may be in order.
1986, Christmas in my Bellmore condo
2012, our neighbor's house across the street
2013, Jones Beach
1981, our first Christmas together
Through the Lens #5
On Top of the World
1985, Shelter Island
Back in the 1990's,while vacationing in California, Steve and I stayed at a condo in Escondido.
Immediately after we checked in, Steve went in search of a swimming pool so he could train. As with most resorts, their idea of a lap pool is 25 yards. Steve groaned when he discovered this, but he still put on his swimsuit, grabbed his swim cap and goggles and dutifully performed his workout. To my non swimmer's mind, I thought; "What is the big deal?, it is a long pool and it has clean water." "What's the problem?"
On this particular trip, I was able to watch him swim from the condo balcony. I think I finally got it as to why he groaned about swimming laps in a 25 yard pool. No sooner than he completed a lap and did a flip turn to reverse direction, his push off from the pool's wall propelled him almost halfway across the pool, allowing him to do only a few swim strokes before he had to do another flip turn/push off to go back again. After his workout, when he returned to the condo, Steve was still dizzy from all the flip turns he had to do in such a short pool, but, nothing was going to deter him from completing his planned workout for the day. No wonder why people always commented how smooth Steve's flip turns were. He had a lot of practice swimming in 25 yard lap pools :-)
Christmas with Steve
1988, First Christmas in our house (I still have the little pine tree behind Steve's head)