Many thanks to my friend Deb for her kind understanding and wonderful letters about her experience with grieving for her beloved Diva. She gave me those two quoted phrases in this post’s title, and some great advice on what to expect down the road.

Tomorrow is a pretty big “first without” and I’m trying to avoid thinking about it but it’s there in all the adverts and radio programs and Facebook and insane traffic, you name it. So, here goes …

Mina and I have spent every Christmas Eve together since the year she was born, 1996. She was living with my friend Mike and was just a little more than two months old. My God, she was cute and bouncy and so open and so sweet.

In the early years we did all the traditional stuff – put up a tree, put presents under the tree, made special meals and cookies and all that stuff. However, we were mostly by ourselves through all those years with only a couple of exceptions. Christmas is not an inclusive holiday, just the opposite, and people hole up with the families and folks like Mina and I are left to our own devices.

That was just fine by us, too. Mina’s love and comfort got me through our first holiday in Denver when we really knew only a couple of people, and she made every Christmas Eve special just by being her loving, sweet self. In the past five years, we stopped celebrating so much – no trees, no gifts, just some chili and wine and movies and a quiet evening together. It was perfect for us. No pressure to shop, we made donations instead, no silly decorations, just a quiet evening at home with the one I love more than any other in the universe.

Christmas Day is really just boring and we entertained ourselves by taking walks and watching more movies and just enjoying each others company. My presents to Mina these last few years have been few, but her friends always made up for it by giving her lots of toys and treats. I gave her love in spades and she returned it and that’s really all we needed.

So this year is really tough. I think it’s a big reason why I’ve been crying so much the past few days. I want nothing more than to spend tomorrow evening at home with Mina, watching movies and giving her treats and rubbing her belly and telling her over and over how much I love her. At least I got that right during our 13 years together – I made sure that Mina knew every single day how much I love her.

If you don’t hear a holiday greeting from me and you don’t get the usual fancy e-card, don’t be offended. I just can’t fake any sort of Christmas cheer this year. In fact, I wish it would all go away and we could fast-forward to April or May.

Another “first without” will be my first road trip home to Dad’s this weekend without Mina. She’s traveled down home with me since our first road trip there in 1998. We went home for Thanksgiving that year, and Mina was only two years old.

My beautiful 2-year-old Mina

A few days after I return will mark two months since Mina died. A dreadful “griefiversary” that chills my heart and marks the passage of time that I don’t yet fully grasp.

I hope you all have a nice weekend and thank you – so much – for your letters and comments and care and concern for me while I figure out how to live without my baby girl.

Mina, my sweet honey bear, you have all my love forever