• The Quiet Holiday - A Gentle Reminder

    As we approach the Christmas season, it is time for a gentle reminder.  

    Amidst the flood of holiday cheer and good will, there are those who may desire to skip the merrymaking.  The reasons are many.  A first holiday without a loved one or friend, serious health or money problems, and some, like myself, have memories around this time of year that are like scars over a wound.

    Of course you can't miss the commercial signs of Christmas.   The festive decorations in red and gold and green that cover shopping malls, homes, even cars ... seasonal music pouring into our ears, trees gayly decorated and beautifully wrapped gifts.  TV shows with charming holiday stories that all have a happy ending.  The societal prompts are everywhere - "Be Happy!"

    And yet ... Be Happy ...  Well, it has not been my response for many years to this holiday.  I make an effort to keep those sad reflective feelings at arms length around others in December.  But I feel the need to remind all on behalf of the "Less Than Happy Club" of which I am a member, that Christmas is not always a joy filled.

    My memories ...
    shared with you as a one example of the struggle some have
    this time of year. 

    Old memories ... as an elementary teacher pulled suddenly from my students,  .... standing in the school secretary's office decorated in reds and greens and golds, hearing mom's voice say over the phone the words "dad just died,"  tears,  confused faces of my second graders as I left them with a substitute in the middle of their holiday party ... waiting outside for my husband to pick me up, disbelief, seeing another staff member, arms filled with holiday cheer for a staff party, smiling and happy, and seeing the smile fade as I said the words ...  and within days standing at mom's side in a funeral home that was decked out with the reds and the golds and the greens of the season, helping to pick out a casket while Christmas music filtered softly through the speakers, hearing her whisper, "I hope he knew that I loved him."

    The date was December 23, 1970.  
    I was 23.  
    I remember it like it was yesterday.

    Years pass.  The holiday subtly changed.  Bad things do happen when the world seems happy.  New to me at age 23.  Children were born, memories were put aside with purpose and with determination.  Some joy seeped back in.

    Fresher memories ... the same music, the same reds, the same golds, the same greens of the season, the same joy in the air ...  except it was December and my 85 year old mom moved in assisted living.  Christmas was hard.  And the next year was harder, always harder.  I began to dread the signs of the approaching happy season.  My mantra  ... I will get passed this - then 'normal' can return.

    Until Christmas 2014 came.  The same of everything was back.  Again.  Music, greens, golds and reds, decorated trees, gifts.  All the same - except three days before Christmas a new image was added ... a nurse sitting me down ... the words "your mother is dying."  Regrets expressed, only a few days left, comfort drugs for her, can I do anything for you or your family.

    Truly, what little joy of the season in me was sucked out.

    December 28, 2014 she died.  
    I was 67.  
    I know that was 4 years ago,
    but it is really only yesterday in my mind.

    Scars upon scars.

    The 'happy' season is different for me now.

    I accept the memories now.  They are a part of who I am.  Not something to be swept aside.  It is an anniversary of a sort that two important people passed from this life during the happiest time of the year.  And one life, mine, changed because of it.

    My experience isn't unique.  Nursing homes report a high incidence of death at Christmas.  And the troublesome problems of life continue - missing a loved one, financial problems, health problems, emotional upheaval - despite the constant unending message of December to "Be Happy."

    So remember as you move through this month some folks are struggling.  They may still smile and laugh and appear to be engaged in the wonder that is the Christmas season.  But they may be wearing a mask.  I know that I do.
    Be kind.  
    Be understanding.  
    Be tolerant of their need for space from the season.  
    Be happy yourself.  

    But remember, sometimes 'happy' is not the goal for some - 
    sometimes just a quiet peaceful holiday is all that can be achieved.

    And that is ok.

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