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Monday, December 14, 2015

The season of joy and sorrow is upon us

Imagine you’ve just lost your mother, and it’s Mother’s Day. Everywhere you look, the world is celebrating mothers. Now multiply that feeling by one hundred. That is what the holiday season feels like for many local families this year.
In some cases it’s the head of the household who is missing. The role will have to be assumed by someone else from now on. Holiday traditions may change a little, but many will remain the same. The missing person may be remembered with stories and anecdotes. In some cases a place is set for them at the table.
We miss the people we have lost. But Christmas and all year long, I believe we have a responsibility to be a witness to their lives.
Some cultures prefer not to mention the dead. They feel it is easier to move forward in their lives if they leave the past behind and never mention the name of the one they have lost.
In our house, it has been nearly eight years since we lost my Dad. The pain, although dulled over time, still swells up forming tears and catching us by surprise occasionally. We find bringing up stories of the past, using Dad’s favourite quotes and including his memory in our traditions helps to ease the sting of loss. This year we have much to celebrate with a healthy new baby in the family. We are not rich, but we have enough. We are trying to keep spending down, so that our credit balances do not rise out of control. I am following the plan of buying our daughters “one thing they want, one thing they need and something to read.”
For myself, I am really trying to slow down and pay attention. Long before the distraction of social media and cell phones, I have always been a person who finds it difficult to live in the moment. Big events tend to whizz past me and I realize afterward I didn’t take the opportunity to connect with people. In the end I am the one who loses.
I am practicing being present. Every evening I turn Facebook off early so I can enjoy conversation with my husband without distraction. Those pings and bells aren’t really conducive to a good night’s sleep either.
On the weekends, I also try to keep social media activity to a minimum. That way I pay more attention to what’s happening outside on the farm, and in the house with the ones I love.
It’s nice to feel connected to friends far away through Facebook and Instagram but they can wait. This Christmas I’m focusing on family. We are so lucky to have five generations of women getting together for a family photo. The new baby and her mama, my mom and I will head into the city to see Great Great Grandmas Vicky and Mabel. I don’t take much time off work over Christmas but I hope to grab a day here and there to extend the celebration a little bit. Being busy with family get-togethers over the holidays is a true blessing. Not everyone has time with family to look forward to at Christmas. I realize this, so I’m trying to make every moment count.
We have another little baby coming to our family this holiday season – the one that was due the same day as my daughter, December 31st. Gloria and Matt are probably on edge, watching and waiting for the signs to start appearing. With any luck we will have two little babies to pass around over the holidays.
We also have a loved one who is in palliative care. This will be her last Christmas. We will be making some time to spend with her as well.
As we head into the holiday home stretch, I encourage you to put the phone down and look around. Notice the people who are hurting, sad or lonely and consider giving them the gift of your time and attention. It doesn’t take much – just connect with them and see if there is anything they need, or if they would like to get together and chat over a coffee.
Even a simple Christmas card with a handwritten note inside can go a long way to remind someone that you are thinking of them during this difficult time. You can help make their holidays a little more bearable.

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