I nodded but had a hard time speaking.
My throat was clogged and my eyes were misty.
After a minute I cleared my throat and said, "I've never had a better Christmas - but not because of the gifts."
* * * * *
Two days have passed since I wrote that first paragraph, and I've spent the last two days thinking about how to write this post - how to put into words the thoughts that have not left me alone.
I feel like my vocabulary is inadequate for the task before me.
About two months ago I stopped taking the medicine my doctor has had me on to help with the lingering effects of PTSD and depression.
I felt ready to face the world without it, and I felt strong enough to battle whatever I would encounter in the days to come.
Not too many days passed before I realized that while the medicine had been helping with the negative emotions, it had also been masking the good emotion. And to feel emotion again, the kind that warmed my soul, made me take deep breaths and soak it all in.
I felt like I had been looking at my world through a window, and for a little while after I stopped taking the medication, I felt like that window had been opened.
One night before Christmas I was walking through the mall and stopped to watch a father reason with his little boy.
They were sitting outside of Bath and Body Works and the little boy was crying.
"Look son. Look how many men are in that store," the father said.
The son shook his head and refused to raise it.
"I promise this is not just a girl's store. There are lots of boys in there, and we need to go in to find something for your mom."
The little guy shook his head again and looked up to his dad with a pout. Just then a surge of men walked into the store and the dad convinced his son to watch them.
"See. There are lots of boys in that store, and we will fit right in. Can we go now?"
The boy reluctantly gave his dad his hand, and the dad pulled him up and put his arm around him as they walked into the store.
I passed that dad a little while later, and he gave me a knowing smile as I watched his son happily walking next to him.
I don't know what it is about this scene that touched me so much, but I had a smile in my heart the rest of the night, and I was grateful that I could feel it.
On the day of my sister's wedding I had a small moment where I felt close to my grandpa - closer than I've felt to him since he passed away.
As I shared the experience with my sister, and then with my mom, and later Jason, I cried.
It had just been days earlier that I had told my mom how much I missed my grandpa, and how he seemed so far away.
Other moments - small and seemingly insignificant - filled my heart and soul and I locked them away where I knew I could find them again, if and when I needed a reminder of the good in my life.
Just a few weeks after the metaphorical opening of my window, I felt the heaviness seep in.
I felt the sadness outweigh the joy and the reality of my life seemed too heavy once again.
I fought it - I fought it with everything I had inside of me, but one Sunday afternoon I had to leave church early because of the overwhelming hurt and sadness I was feeling. I sobbed as I walked the short distance home, and when I walked in the house Jason took one look at me and wrapped me in his arms, where I continued to cry and cry.
A little while later I looked at Jason with tears still in my eyes and said, "I don't think I was ready. I think I have to keep taking the medicine."
He hugged me again and said, "It's okay - take it, and you can try again in a few months."
Later that night I talked to my mom and told her the one thing that has been harder than all of the other hard combined.
"I can handle Emily's broken heart," I told her.
"I am learning to deal with everything else that comes with Em's syndrome."
"I trust that God has a plan for Em's life, and I believe that He trusts Jason and me to help Him with that plan."
"But why did this have to break me in the process?" I asked her, and I was crying yet again.
"Why can't I be strong enough to do all of this without stupid pills," I said.
"Why did it break me too?" is the question that I ask over and over again in my mind.
* * * * *
When I told Jason I've never had a better Christmas, I meant it.
Christmas this year represents the end of the longest and hardest year and a half of my life.
It represents a closed chapter - and while I know we have hard things ahead of us, they won't be hard like the last 18 months have been, and I'm so grateful for that.
It's 1:30 in the morning on January 1st and I'm listening to fireworks going off outside.
I've never been more ready to start over, to start fresh, to leave the past behind.
The last 18 months have made me a much different person that I was before.
They've strengthened me and exposed my weaknesses.
They've caused me to draw closer to God, and at times they've caused me to question my faith.
They've made me vulnerable and unsure, but they've made me rock solid too.
I'm closing this chapter of the story of my life with an added bit of emphasis, and as I walk forward into the next chapter, I'm filled with gratitude that these two will be a part of it: