Life is a temporary thing and we all have special people we have known and loved who are no longer with us. People who have moved away and lost contact with each other and most importantly, people who have died. In 2013 there have been death and loss – family tragedies, ill-health, conflict and natural disasters that have culminated in the ending of someone life and the loss experienced by those left behind. The inconsolable loss and grief when we realise that our life will never again be as it was. Yet, at times the death is expected and even at times anticipated. When we see someone we love in pain and distress, an elderly person who is looking towards the end of their life with some relief or release. Relief from their inability to move freely or care for themselves in any capacity, a frail and elderly person who relies on others for the simple things of feeding, toileting or even rolling over in bed so they can see the sun rise and set each day.
This Christmas I have been reflecting on traditions and what draws me to do the expected each year. The people I spend my time with, the places I go and what I celebrate.
We gather as a family, enjoying a sumptuous meal prepared together with different households bringing something seasonal and luscious to share. The table is set with fine china and colourful linen, there are bon-bons (Australia Christmas crackers) for everyone and the house is decorated with red and gold baubles and bells. There is music and laughter and the tinkle of glasses as people delight in each others company. Yet, rarely do we speak about the ‘big stuff’. I am not saying that we don’t talk about things past – or our worries or the awful stories of the previous year. It just seems that we get so (well I get ..) wrapped up in the media-hyped traditions of Christmas that I sometimes forget what I really want to celebrate. What is important to do, say and acknowledge.
I read this post from Sally and was moved by the pictures of the 185 empty chairs in New Zealand. 185 white empty chairs to acknowledge the February 2011 earthquake and the lives lost at that time. It got me to thinking about how people acknowledge and celebrate individuals and those memories of special people that they are no longer able to sit across the table on Christmas Day with or share a kiss at midnight on New Year Eve. I know that some people leave an empty place at the table to acknowledge the person who is missing from the family celebrations. I have also heard of families who have a tradition where they take turns sharing what they have been grateful for over the past year, at their ‘end of year’ party. I wonder what we might say to those who have passed if we had the chance to speak with them again – just once more! Would we tell them we have missed them (but that is really more about us than them ..) or would we say sorry for the things we did and would be best to have not done (also probably asking something for our own benefit) or would we just sit and listen to them, delighting in hearing their voice once more and seeing their beautiful face just once more – to reach out and touch their hand and say “I love you”!
I am grateful for the life, love and friendship in my day. I am grateful for good health and my body’s ability to recover from the occasional days of ill-health. I am grateful that I have shelter, food, warmth and love in my life. I am grateful for books, stories, music, flowers and the ability to read. Mostly I love and am grateful for family, good friends and opportunities.
A la votre!