Christmas. Advent. Holidays. This bittersweet and melancholy season. I miss when my sons were little. In their Gymboree pajamas, super excited about Santa Claus and cookies and presents. It was a period of absurd overindulgence and extravagance and excess. The were spoiled. Showered with things. True piles of presents.

Now, I can barely bring myself to shop, thankful for online browsing and Amazon delivery. Sure, there is no wandering around Target, impulsively buying (genuine junk) that no one needs.

My preference is to gather. The cook. To eat. To share. Time. If I can’t snuggle with the 3 and 7 year old versions of my two sons, then I’d like to bake cookies and watch Die Hard (our traditional family Christmas movie).

Last weekend, I spend most of Saturday baking cookies. I worked alone. Spritz trees, chocolate crinkles, oatmeal, cranberry/pistachio shortbreads, vanillakipfen, sand tarts and a decadent pecan pie shortbreads. I assembled boxes for each of our neighbors. Then I made to-go boxes and delivered them to my two (now adult) sons. One got crinkles and trees. The other got double the amount of trees and a square the pecan pie bar. They were thankful. But it was a brief hand off. And it left me wistful and sad for the days when we decorated and made the kitchen a shambles together.

But my sons are still here. I had a sad encounter with the father of a patient who took his own life two months ago. I was unaware of the man’s death until the father asked to talk to me. Searching for a reason, a clue, anything that might help him understand why. What had he missed. Had he missed something that might have averted the tragedy? I sat at my desk, looking at the picture of my two sons and let the grief flow through me. It felt tangible and heavy. And I felt apologetic for my blessing – my sons are still here – while this father is bereft, his only son gone. No more baking cookies. Or unwrapping presents. No more hugs.

When I took The Younger son his Chinese take-out box filled with cookies, he hugged me. He’s a grown man, taller and bigger than me by six inches and many pounds, but I still love the way he smells. And I miss the smaller, younger, cuddlier version that once sat in my lap and played with the hair on my forearms.

The best gifts I have ever been given in my whole entire life EVER are those two children that the Lord blessed me with, entrusted me with, bestowed upon me. And I know, that like that lost father that came searching for answers, if one of my sons had taken his own life, I would be frantic that I had missed something, could have done something, should have know. The echoes of his grief have shadowed me for days.