I noticed Kelley Lynn put up a couple of lovely questions on her Facebook page in the run-up to Christmas. It went along the lines of:
- Tell me, what/who are you missing?
- And if you’re joyful, then say more about that
It’s Christmas morning, and I am sitting in bed. No rush here, because for over a decade, Mike and I said to our guests, “Christmas lunch will be 3pm or 4pm.
That habit probably started in my teens when, as a family we went to the Lake District, walking in the hills, at Christmas, and seven of us (plus hangers on) stayed in a tiny miner’s cottage. We had to go for a long walk just because it was beautiful, whatever the weather; and because inside we’d have got on top of each other, metaphorically in terms of nerves and literally in terms of bodies.
Then living with Mike in France, he and I got into the habit of going for a gentle Christmas jog in the local woods, which made the whole preparation thing get quite late. So late that lunch/early dinner it became. And of course, added bonus, there’s no need to actually provide lunch (nibbles will do), nor dinner (because you’re still stuffed).
That Christmas day design holds now, in our fifth Christmas without my youngest brother Edward, our third without my husband Mike, and our first without my youngest child Julia.
So before I actually get up and go for a gentle jog, here are some of my reflections in response to Kelley’s questions.
What & Who am I missing?
Mike, Julia, Ed, Don, Granny May – and yes, others too, but mostly them
Simplicity and lightness in my life
Solid confidence that life is good
Help and support before I even realise I need it
Invitations to others’ houses, dinners, parties, outings
Friends who have dropped away
The apéro party we always did on the last Friday before Christmas (and even the year after Mike died, but not last year, and not this year)
Primary and secondary losses – the effects go on and on and on
And what am I joyful about and grateful for?
The invitation from Trisha & Angus to be in Grimentz for a few days before Christmas in the chalet that Mike helped kit out and that holds so many memories – as well as recordings in the visitor’s book
The snow that fell in buckets and barrels, delaying our departure by an extra night
Ben and Megan for their constancy, their love, their interests and talents, their desire to be home at this time of year (for a while longer I hope), their willingness to get stuck into other arrangements I make for them and be sociable
Medjool and his family, and all that that brings – invitations, food, music, comfort, help, support, affection, understanding, sport, outings
My health, my body, and being able to do more with it than most people my age
My parents, their health, availability and generosity
The pockets of work I do have, and my fledgling ideas about creating new services
New friends with whom I am constructing a new piece of my life’s tapestry, as well as old friends who’ve worked damned hard to stay by me in my fratchety-ness, to learn a new language of support, and who’ve licked any wounds caused in them by me, and who still come back to walk with me a while
The cards and notes and messages and photos I have received where people really worked hard to language things to reflect the complexity of this time of year (and heck, the complexity of any time of year)
The roses from Joan that had been buffeted around the garden for 3 days before we returned, but are still fresh and beautiful
My dog and cat
My memories and learnings from all my dead loved ones
Sunshine today on Christmas day (I must get out on that run)
Secondary gains – nothing “replaces” anything, because dead is dead, lost is lost. And yet there are small pieces of something new that’s being added, tacked on to the quilt.
Mixed emotions are the norm. Gratitude and Joy side by side with Grief and Loss. It’s still very very very hard and painful almost all of the time, AND I notice – I really do notice and value – the efforts people make, and when I feel just that little bit of ease, moments of joy and peace and comfort and happiness.
I really must get out on that run.