Five Months

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

I love everything about the holidays, the good and the bad. I revere the meaning and also enjoy all of the trappings. I know you don’t need glittery decorations and peppermint everything to celebrate gratitude and Jesus’s birthday, but I like it all – unapologetically.

When you have kids, the holidays become even more magical.



Julianna’s first Christmas morning.  Alex is moving in for a kiss (I think). J isn’t having it



Christmas in Tucson. Instead of snowflakes, bubbles. Still magical. I’m amazed that J is able to stand by herself here…


It will be different this year. There’s just no way around it.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. Grief, I have discovered, is unpredictable. It’s my new filter, and it changes everything.

There will be no photo card this year. Maybe we’re done with them for good. Somehow,  I don’t really care. I lost my daughter this year. A photo card is meaningless.



This is one of my favorite pictures of J and A. We used it for our 2013 Christmas card. It was the calm before the storm that was 2014.  Photo by Jennifer Rialtos


The toy aisle is another matter. Oh, how Julianna loved her toys! We would have had a closet full of Christmas gifts by now, new superheroines and ponies and princesses, all waiting for their turn to be loved and be launch into fantastic adventures. Her eyes went wide and sparkled at the sight of a new toy, so I was the most liberal of toy purchasers — even as I bemoaned the excess. Now, the toy aisle is too much, and it has nothing to do with consumerism.

Christmas music is safe. Her favorite was Hark the Herald.  I remember her singing it, even when she didn’t have breath to spare. I hear Alex humming it now as he eats apples on our living room floor, and I’m comforted. He seems to be thriving now, and I think it’s because he has both of us. I’m grateful for this, but also broken, because it makes me realize just how much he had to sacrifice when Julianna was here. And now he saves us, just by existing.

I have no desire to put up the Christmas tree, but we’ll do it if Alex asks. It seems like a reasonable plan, even if this new world is anything but.



364 days ago we put up the tree.


And we still have to get through Thanksgiving. Last year, Thanksgiving came to us, and it was epic. This year, we will travel as a family of three to St. Louis. Julianna spent three of her five Thanksgivings here, and they are some of my happiest memories. This one will be tough.



This is the last time she went to Homie’s house. You can’t even tell that she had stupid CMT. I love the belly.



J was able to ride the merry-g0-round with help. She always picked the elephant.


I don’t know how to do any of this. Grief leaves me bewildered as often as it leaves me sad.

Thr holiday season so far through the filter of grief: joy (that she was mine), peace (that nothing can hurt her now), and wonder (what, exactly, are we supposed to do now?).


I remember….

One year ago (more or less), we let a documentary crew into our home to film Julianna’s Christmas for South Korean television. Julianna took it in stride, but the strangeness of living in front of a camera was felt by all.

One evening, they filmed us as we played in Julianna’s room. The producer asked Julianna to explain what we were doing.

Fixing him with a stare, Julianna said “We’re going to have a quiet contest now.”

“Quiet contests” were a game that Steve and I employed when we wanted a few moments peace in the car. Julianna was never very good at them — until that night.


Featured image by Jennifer Rialtos.

15 thoughts on “Five Months

  1. I ‘m not in your shoes, I know it has been only a few month that she left you guy to better place were she is not suffering any more, I know is hard hopefully next year will be better, my preyers are with your family, and be strong for your son.🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼😞


  2. You will cry. You will laugh, You will sigh. You will put one foot in front of another. You will have good days. You will have bad days. You might snap at someone that tells you “Merry Christmas”. You might catch your breath with the wonder of a Messiah come to the world.

    Continue to do what you’ve been doing – giving yourselves space to feel it all.


  3. (As tears flowed just reading your blog), I can only imagine the strength it takes for you to even write these blogs……these days. Thank you, for this blog and the most beautiful pictures of Alex and Julianna I’ve ever seen! I wondered about You, Steve and Alex your Family, during this upcoming Holiday Season. Thanking God, you can look back on all “The Magical Moments and Holiday Seasons with Julianna”! Your holiday season last year was way beyond EPIC! These were, “One of a kind”, memories that are etched in time forever, (“World Wide Knowledge of her”, The Movie, Her Book, Her Holiday Season-way beyond Epic!!)
    It’s amazing how it’s the seemingly little things (but are not), that are most noticeably helping you get through this time…hearing Alex humming, “Hark the herald Angels sing”. Knowing he’s striving during this period because he has his Mother and Father so near. Even your realization of what Alex had to sacrifice, melts everybody’s heart to recognize. Somehow I don’t think Alex would have believed he was sacrificing anything. In our opinion, He is and will forever be acknowledged as “The best Big Brother any Sister could have”!
    I’m so happy to hear, you will be traveling to Homie’s house for Thanksgiving! Knowing that Julianna would be very pleased that you traveled to St. Louis, and stated that in one of your earlier blogs. She would be pleased you all were together, and that you were remembering HER! (“REMEMBER ME”-how in a million years could she think we could forget her!). These days I remember her a lot, she still has the Power to make my days brighter and happier just by “Remembering Her”!
    Safe Travels my Dear Friends


  4. These have to be the most wonderful pictures of your children!

    I’m so sorry, no words can take away your grief. I feel your pain through your blogs. Something tells me writing is your way to express your inner feelings, to get it out there and not let the pain linger inside you….

    Julianna was a blessing! Truly gifted, happy, loving, playful, smart, adventures child.

    Through your blogs I feel close to her and I thank you again for sharing.

    Holidays are going to be tough, but just remember, Julianna is free now, she is with you in every way, she is smiling and wants you to be happy and “remember her always ” that’s why your skies are pink, she’s letting you know she’s happy and loves you all so much…..💞💞💗💗💓💕


  5. J has been a blessing to all of us, even us that never had a chance to know her in person, she is with you daily in your heart, it will never get easier, you just have to keep writing and keep her memory alive. Alex is an amazing brother and not once do i think he ever saw anything he went through as a burden, he is so strong and full of love like his sister !!! you should still make holiday cards, and add J in them somehow !!! Im sure she would love that 🙂 it shows we remember her 🙂 you guys as a family are AMAZING !!!!


  6. Michelle, I’m praying for your continued strength and healing. May God Bless You and your family during this very difficult Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Your allowing us to know J was a testament of your love, we are all a testament of hers. Love IS a superpower! Julianna will not be forgotten, she lives in our memories and in our hearts.


  7. I know you never would, so don’t give up on Christmas Tree and such. Yes there is more to the holidays than the outwardly symbols, and yes once can celebrate birth of our Lord without them but they do make the season special. Think of it as a fancy outfit for the house :).


  8. May God wrap you in his love during this special time of year. I can’t even imagine what you all are going through but never forget that we are all here behind you and praying for your continued healing.


  9. You all are in our hearts, thoughts and prayers. Thank you for sharing. We are here holding you in the pink light of love and compassion. Beautiful story, I believe in angels in all their forms.

    Much love,


  10. think of her pretty much every day, amazing since I never had the privilege of meeting that chock full of good thoughts little person. Her pic is on my table with some butterfly wings and on my wall at work. She still is and always will be my strength and hero in life. Bought her book and gave it to a 6 year old little girl named Toni to enjoy.


  11. I wish I could give you a big hug. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish I knew the words that might give you comfort. When my friend lost her amazing dad at 21, I told her that many people will never know a love like what you had with your dad – isn’t it amazing that you had something so incredible for 21 years and will live with the love and memories for the rest of your life. I read your blog because it’s filled with so much love, even if that love is wrapped in sadness. It gives me solace in times like these – when I’m not sure of what kind of world we live in. I see the beautiful strength of humanity in your writing.


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