“I wish Nana was still safe and comfortable and alive”
--My three year-old, crying at bed time
I have been caught in a cycle lately of ‘what was I doing this time last year?’, as mum’s time was growing shorter, and we were living our lives revolving around that event. Indeed, I think I have spent some minutes recently living in 2012 instead of 2013.
Last year on the first weekend of December, I accompanied mum to Ontario, where she was making her last-ever trip to her brother’s house. Her other siblings were gathering there, too.
That weekend, I missed the kids’ Christmas party that is put on annually by my company; I missed the first time my kids got to meet Santa and sit upon his knee. But what I lost in that opportunity I gained in being able to sit around my Uncle’s table, watching as he and my mum and my other aunt and uncle looked through old photos, chatted about their upbringing in England and reminiscing about some of their youthful shenanigans. By the time I returned home, though I was sad to have missed the party, I felt a sense of privilege, to have been able to witness a piece of that last visit, to see my mum come alive again for a few days as she recalled old memories and family histories with her sister and her brothers, and to know I had helped get her there. My kids will encounter Santa again. This was a one-shot deal.
Lives are often in a state of crisis, large and small. A snapshot of just a sampling of our friends at this very moment has one baby passing his 90th day in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, having been born three months ahead of schedule this Fall. We recently had a friend rush back to the UK, hoping to catch his father’s last hours. He did not make it. There are also three more cancer cases in my midst to speak of recently, one brain, one blood and one breast. A close family friend’s is watching her aged mother’s dementia rule her life. Closer to home and last but CERTAINLY not least, my grandma has just passed away (I will have more to say on this, but I need to collect some thoughts first). And the list goes on.
Everyone lives this way, I guess, with their personal struggles and back stories hiding behind their eyes. It’s not always health, of course. Sometimes it’s money, or relationships, or work. In some you can see it, in others not. Year over year, though, these things feel like they are on the increase.
The closer I get to Christmas this year, I know that I will probably think about all those things even more. I hope that all our friends and family facing a different sort of Christmas coming their way this year, for all sorts of reasons, can find some time and some calm as the holiday season whirls around them, to reflect on some of the better things happening in their world.
I am ever thankful for the here-and-now: my happy, usually-healthy kids, my own health and that of my wife’s, our cozy house, the great work I get to do, and the list can go on.
This morning, just hours after my grandma passed away, I went to my company’s 2013 kids Christmas party, the one I missed last year. I watched a ballroom full of kids in party dresses and holiday outfits eat ice cream and gingerbread, make crafts and meet Santa.