Molly Holtrop ’13
The twinkling lights of the Christmas tree illuminate the room with a sense of warmth. An assortment of shiny ornaments dangle with a distinctive elegance. Laughter is heard around every corner, along with the soft hum of her favorite Christmas melody. Freshly baked cookies fill the air with a welcoming gesture that makes her feel truly at home. Smiles upon her loved ones’ faces paint a picture-perfect moment in time. But as she comes back to reality, Sirena Johnson ‘13 realizes it was all just a memory.
“Everything is different now. It’s weird when the one who made you believe in everything is gone. Christmas has turned into just another day,” states Johnson. Having lost her dad three years ago, Johnson deals with the difficult struggles of losing a parent.
Christmas, a day to be treasured for most, has a whole different meaning to Emily Baird ’13 as well. This was also the day she lost her hero, her dad.
“I’m not excited when it comes to Christmas. My dad was such a big part of the holidays that thinking about it without him is rough,” says Baird.
Nikki Matzke ’14 lost a different kind of family bond. Although she has both of her parents in her life, Matzke is missing a sibling. Being too young to understand fully at the time, she now realizes what an important aspect she lost on August 13, 2001. Matzke lost a best friend, a big brother.
“Holidays, especially Christmas, make me miss my brother more than usual. I always wonder about how things would be different if he was here,” states Matzke.
Memories from the holidays can be painful for these girls to recall, however these times were some of the greatest.
“I remember waking up in the morning and running around making sure everyone else was awake too. The presents were piled high. At the time, I didn’t know this, but my dad had taken every measure to make sure I thought everything was real. It worked; it was much more than real to me,” states Johnson.
Like Johnson’s dad, Baird’s was also a huge part in creating the total Christmas image.
“Every Christmas we would sneak around trying to figure out our presents, but my dad would already know exactly what we were up to. He would catch us in the act. He always was the one to surprise us. Even on Christmas morning, he would be up before any of us and would already be making breakfast,” says Baird.
Although certain things have changed dramatically for her household during the holidays, tradition remains the same for the Matzke family.
“Every year for Christmas we get my brother a sentimental ornament for our tree. It’s something we’ve always done,” states Matzke.
Dealing with the death of a family member is an unimaginable concept to grasp. These girls have found ways to cope with this deep pain.
“I find comfort through my older sister. We give each other advice on things we couldn’t ask anyone else about. She checks in on me to make sure I’m okay, and I do the same for her. By talking about our dad together, it helps us deal with everything we’re going through. We give each other somebody to lean on; we both know completely what each other is going through,” says Johnson.
For Baird, finding comfort comes from her knowing and understanding certain things.
“I knew he was suffering. I’m glad to know he is no longer in pain. My dad was one of the strongest people I have ever known, and seeing him like that broke my heart,” states Baird.
Communication seems to play a significant role in finding comfort. Like Johnson, Matzke finds comfort through somebody who understands unconditionally, her mom.
“By talking to my mom it helps a lot. Since I was so young when everything happened, she helps me remember. My mom definitely helps me understand everything clearly,” says Matzke.
Christmas is just a day that insinuates the memory of a missing loved one. Filling that empty space in their hearts is an extraordinary difficult thing to do. A future without a parent or a sibling is unimaginable.
Johnson states, “It’s not just the holidays he’ll be missing, he’ll be missing the rest of my life.”