The magic of Christmas

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Christmas, for me, doesn’t feel as magical as it used to when my parents were still alive.  My dad was the biggest kid of all and he would happily stroll through malls that were bulging at the seams with shoppers trying to find that perfect gift. He would also be on the phone at 6:00 am on Christmas morning, pulling us from our slumber to make sure we were up and ready to come over to open presents.  The Beach Boys Christmas album would be blaring in the background, as it was each Christmas morning, and he would impatiently pace around the overflowing tree until we arrived.

My mother would embrace her inner elf and make their house look like Santa’s workshop had overflowed into every room and the smell of fresh-baked cookies and other goodies always filled the air.  The dining room table, that was once filled with tins of cookies she had made for many of the local businesses, would be set to perfection with all of the festive tablecloths, napkins and candles.

Perhaps some of my Christmas spirit was taken when they left.  Maybe it also has to do with the fact that I don’t have kids of my own and my nephews are now teenagers, so the urge to feel elvish is lower on the register.  But over the last couple of years, I have been finding much more of my Christmas spirit through the annual toy drive I have run every year for the last five years.

With a stuffed Rudolph safely tucked onto my dashboard so his red nose could lead the way, we drove two cars full of toys to the Food Bank today and were able to be there to help some of the families find the perfect gifts to give to their kids on Christmas morning.  To say I am now bursting with Christmas spirit is a gross understatement.  It was so heart-warming being able to stay and see the smiles as parents got to pick out the toys they knew their kids would love.

The spirit of giving is truly what the holiday is about.  And since I have just been injected with an overdose of that spirit, I think it’s time to go home, turn the tree lights on and crank some carols by the Beach Boys.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

The fork in the road

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Everyone is given choices.  For the naysayers that exude denial and say they didn’t have a choice…..they are lying.  Everyone has a choice and sometimes choosing not to make a choice is their choice.

Although choices should be made carefully and given ample thought, they are available for everyone to make.  Many factors should be balanced before you make a choice but ultimately the decision-making comes down to a rational mind with an understanding of the potential conclusions.

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The fork in the road is put there for a specific purpose.  It is a deciding moment that you are able to pause and weigh your options.  Each fork will bring an alternate result and it is that pause that you are given that will help you make the choice that is best for you.  Choices should not be made on a whim because the trickle down effect could cause more people to be affected by your decision.  Take that gift seriously.   If the choice you are making could be detrimental to you or to someone else it is worth putting in a solid effort to weigh the pros and cons before you give your final answer.

Inevitably we will all make some bad choices along the way, but there is always that promise of redemption by making a better choice the next time.  And ultimately choosing to make the better choice is afforded to us by making a choice in the first place.

Put faith in your ability to make that choice wisely and choose to live with its consequences.  At least you will have the benefit of knowing you made the effort and if it wasn’t the right choice, you will get the chance to re-think your next path at that next fork in the road.

They thought they had more time

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I arrived at the church fifteen minutes before the service began and I was ushered into one of the last remaining seats at the back of the church.  The room was full and buzzing with conversation.  At the front of the church was a large picture of the man for whom we had all come to pay our respects and say our goodbyes.

There were several familiar faces and many I did not know.  Some carried on animated exchanges while others sat and prepared for the tears they knew were coming.  The church fell silent and we all rose to greet his wife, his children, his grandchildren and his extended family.

During the service, his children got up to share their memories of their dad and through broken, emotion-soaked voices they gave us another look into the man we all knew and greatly respected.  Before they even spoke, I saw the pain in their faces.  That same pain had been etched into my skin years ago when I lost my parents, my dad in 2006 and my mom, more recently, in 2014.  It is a pain not easily described to those who have not lost a parent.

Although both of my parents were ill leading up to their passing, they both left before I had a chance to say I love you once more because we thought we had more time.  This poor family thought they had much more time but their dad died very unexpectedly of a massive heart attack.  I sat through the service with dry eyes, because to have cried one tear would have opened floodgates that may not have closed.

I sit now writing this post through the tears that I could not shed on Saturday for fear they would not stop.  I think of all the lives he changed for the better.  I think of his countless hours spent doing things for those less fortunate.  I think of the legacy he left behind for us to follow.  And I think of his children who thought they had more time with their dad but never had the chance to tell him “I love you” just one more time.

As someone so astutely pointed out to me on Saturday, we are all given numbers and we never know when ours will be called.  Love deeply, laugh abundantly, share your good fortune with those who go without and don’t ever take for granted the moments to tell the people in your life how you feel about them.  You never know when their, or your, number will be called.

 

 

Sometimes you just need a hug

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Emotion is a very worthy adversary.  It can lay dormant and sneak up on you when you least expect it.  On Monday I fell victim to its stealthy attack and was on the verge of an ugly cry in my office in the middle of the day.  At that moment, all I wanted was a hug.

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Being affected by a wave of feelings is nothing new to me.  I get overwhelmed by, not only my sorrows but, the melancholy felt by those around me.  Like a kettle that is too full of water, that emotion has nowhere else to go and eventually it spills out.

In those moments, I feel like a child holding my arms in the air, waiting for someone to come and pick me up and tell me it’s going to be okay.  I know the surge of sadness will pass, but sometimes you just need a hug to make everything feel better.  The comfort of an embrace is what we are born knowing and trusting.

We had a senior’s bus tour at the lodge this past fall and I met one of the sweetest ladies during that tour.  She was all of 4 feet high and spoke with a wee Scottish brogue.  Every morning she would come into the office and ask if I wanted a hug.  I never turned her down.  And she did the same thing with the 38 other people on the tour, always careful to ask the wives’ permission to be able to hug their husbands.

She gets it.  She knows there is nothing more heart-warming than a genuine embrace that will make the sorrow seem less sad, that will make life seem more manageable and that will make reality more acceptable.  A hug can speak more than words, can drain sadness from your soul and can let people know how you feel about them without having to say a word.

While life may try to challenge your reality, one simple hug can bring you right back to where you need to be.  Hugging is the most beautiful form of communication and it allows someone to know that you truly care.

 

 

Energy never dies, it simply changes

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“As long as there is one person on Earth who remembers you, it isn’t over.” ~ Oscar Hammerstein, Carousel

~

I speak aloud to them and their faces later hover in my dreams,

those gone before me.

Perhaps it was their time.

Maybe they were taken before I was ready for them to be gone.

They leave a void on my plane of reality,

a chasm of memories that I jump into during random moments.

I bathe in the forgotten sound of their laughter,

I warm to the memory of their embrace.

But their energy never dies.

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They yearn for me to engage them.

They delight in the moments that I recall our past together.

I keep their memory alive with every thought of them,

each recollection of their journey with me.

If I take that moment to remember,

to seek what I saw in them in the physical world,

I give those reflections a new vitality.

When I look into the darkness,

I see beyond the black veil of loss.

I see the light they brought to my life.

The case that once held those beautiful spirits may be gone,

but the mark they left on my soul never leaves me.

They remain in my heart for as long as I am alive.

Each time I look into the stars,

I know they are looking back at me.

Their energy never dies.

~

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It lies just below the surface

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The pain of losing a parent is overwhelming.  It has been over eleven years since my dad passed and over three years since my mom passed.  Most days, even though I still find myself reaching for the phone to call them, I can manage the loss.  But every so often, there is a glaring reminder to make me deal with that sense of loss all over again.  It may be a completely banal event but the flood of feelings cannot be stopped.

Last night, it was a television commercial for the Heart and Stroke Foundation with Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette.  Joannie lost her mom only 2 days before she competed in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 and every time I see the reminder of her story I am reduced to tears.  I know that loss all too well.  I feel the pain her heart feels.  But what I can’t imagine is having to perform at the highest level of competition a mere two days after losing her best friend.

The pain of loss never really goes away.  It lies just below the surface, ready to surprise us at any moment.  It can come back gradually or it can hit us all at once.  Regardless of how it arrives, I am now able to remind myself that the pain is so hard to take because it represents the huge amount of love we had in our family.  It doesn’t stop the tears from flowing, but now I can smile a little through those tears.