It’s not a typical Christmas Day scene. Family, gathered together, in a cemetery.  But really, there is nothing typical about this family.  These are my people and my story is forever woven with theirs.

On Christmas day, I stood with my family and said an official good-bye to my amazing Grandfather who passed away in October.  Next to my grandfather’s name is the name of his wife, my beautiful grandmother, who survives him.  Two steps away I looked down and saw the name of my Aunt, Linda, my grandparents daughter who passed away in her twenties from Cystic Fibrosis. Next to Linda was the name Bruce.  Bruce was my uncle, my grandparents son, who, like his sister, passed away from Cystic Fibrosis in his early thirties.  Steps away, there was this. . .

My grandfather’s daughter.  My grandmother’s daughter.  Linda’s Sister.  Bruce’s sister.

My dad’s wife.

My mom.

Carrie Sue.  My Mom.

Almost seven years ago we lost her and for the first time, I saw the bold letters, forcing me to swallow the truth more deeply.

The permanency of it is still shocking.  I’ll never have a mom again.

I stood there next to my Dad, the strongest man I know, and I listened to him talk about our family.  I listened to him talk about how our family, like so many families, has endured tremendous tragedy and how our family, like many, has experienced remarkable blessings.

I looked around me, at my brother and my sister.  I saw Chad and my Dad.  I saw my niece and my nephews and the curious eyes of my own little ones and I heard my Dad say that even among the great tragedy our family has endured our greatest gifts are standing right here.

And amidst the feelings of sadness, I felt incredible pride.  Surrounded by such strong people and standing among the names of my family who were gone far too soon, I was struck with the gravity of it all–and of the legacy of those who had traveled roads ahead of me.

My grandparents who lost all three of their children. My dad who lost his wife.  His brother.  His dad.

Legacy.  People who taught me, by the way they have lived, that life is for living.  That life, even with tragedy, is worth diving into and sucking all the marrow out of.  That a sunset is worth a stopping for and that laughter is the best medicine.

They’ve given me a legacy of hope.  Of endurance.  Of passion.  Of survival.

A legacy that continually teaches me that out of ashes, beauty rises.

I am proud to walk among these people.  I am grateful to be a part of this unique family.  I am thankful for the legacy that has been passed to me. A story that I claim in all it’s beautiful tragedy.  A story that will be carried forward in the lives of those who travel the road after me. . .

It’s not a typical Christmas story, but it’s mine.

“I carry you with me into the world, into the smell of rain & the words that dance between people & for me, it will always be this way, walking in the light, remembering being alive together.” -Brian Andreas, Story People