Our First Christmas Without My Niece

A couple of years ago, in the middle of Spring, my six-year-old niece passed away. My family, obviously, was devastated by her death. We all pulled together and tried to get through it as best we could. It was a busy year to begin with, and it made grieving that much more difficult. Barely a month after her passing, I got married, then my brother got married the next month and left the U.S. to live in England.

My niece's parents - my sister and her husband - moved their family to another state the month after that, and my mom moved back to her hometown to live with her boyfriend. Adjusting to all the changes was, to say the least, not easy. That Christmas, however, my husband and I, along with Mom and her boyfriend, were all able to stay with my sister in Florida. We felt it was important to visit since the first Christmas without their baby girl would be incredibly hard for them.

But, here's the thing. After all that moving around we all had done that year, we were broke. My mom LOVES Christmas, but since she hadn't found a new job back in her hometown, she wasn't able to get much for anyone. So, she decided we should have a Christmas where we don't buy anything new. That is, almost every gift we gave to each other was re-gifted. Personally, I bought some things from secondhand stores, though I did give away plenty of wedding gifts that my husband and I hadn't used. A lot of the gifts were things we made, as well. My sister, who is quite the crafty devil when it comes to making jewelry and sewing, gave all the ladies handmade jewelry.

The best gifts were the Christmas ornaments she made. She took scraps from some of her daughter's clothes and sewed them into tiny pillows shaped like butterflies. Then, she filled the butterflies with cotton and a little piece of my niece's favorite blanket, which was made of a loud, crinkly material. Every time any of us squeezes one of the butterfly ornaments, it crinkles. They're the perfect tribute to my niece, and helped make that Christmas my favorite ever.

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