A small share, for those who might be struggling to face the Celebrations this Christmas.
17 years ago on this day, Christmas Eve, my mother died. She passed away in the early hours of Christmas Eve around 6 am after a short spell in hospital. She had collapsed on the 19th December after suffering a massive brain haemorrhage and was never to regain consciousness. It’s a long time ago now, but of course those kinds of days one never forgets. I remember waking early to a strange dream of a baby being born, and at the same time hearing the telephone ringing which was the hospital notifying us that she had passed away. That Christmas Eve it rained, it rained hard all day. I went with my father to the hospital in the morning to get papers and personal effects. I remember staring out of the hospital window into this seeming less endless grey and was glad that it was raining. It was like the skies were doing the crying I was, at that point, unable to do. It was such an odd sense relief. We went straight to the registrars before they shut at lunch-time, as it was Christmas Eve, to register the death. By co-incidence the registrar who tended us, she too had lost a parent at Christmas and as she looked into our stunned eyes she just said, “It’s not easy, it won’t be for some time, particularly as it’s happened at Christmas, but it will get easier. Each year it’ll get easier. “……And of course she was and is completely right.
It was what some term a complex grieving process, as my mother, while a dedicated and loving mother and incredibly creative person, she was frankly a difficult woman. Her sharp edges though, were there from various bashes she had received in her own life which she had sadly never been given the compassionate and supportive environment to enable her to fully process or make peace with them and sadly as a result she had grown bitter and defensive in many ways. For a number of years at Christmas after her death, while there was this shadow and grief hanging over the season for us, there was also just a little bit of guilty relief one didn’t have this difficult relative, to have to cope with. It also totally changed the shape of Christmas arrangements for our family, which in some ways was a relief and in others just went to further emphasise she was no longer there. There were a number of years when the Christmas parties were just simply painful and just told myself to simply suck it up and get on with it. Often, just as many people do, I ended up drinking far too much, drinking to forget, drinking to party and have a good time, drinking out of social inclusion and all of it would often result in me simply feeling emptier, more foolish, and having to not only control my unheard emotions in public but control them while drunk; never a good combination and all in the face of this unrelenting forced jollity. There were some years when I would have quite happily dumped Christmas, the tree, spangles, sparklers and all in the skip and left town for the hills but out of a sense of duty and care to those around me, I didn’t. Looking back, knowing now what I know, that would probably have been the wisest thing I could have done, at least for a couple of them. Taken to the hills, gone for walks, good food, long sleeps was really what my spirit and my body needed.
However, in all of this, one thing that always remained with me, was the soft magic of Christmas. Like a single candle flame in a dark room, this season with all it’s traditions, fun, frollicks, falseness, religion and ceremony, it has one thing at it’s core – heartiness. Heartiness in the face of the darkest time of the year, bleakest, the coldest. When you strip it back to that bare root, then you can once more hear the yule log crackle, the mulled wine bubble and you can once again be grateful for the warmth of the family or friends that you may find yourself (willingly or unwillingly) sharing it with. Even if you are on your own, it still opens the door to the fire side warmth and the capacity of humans to care for each other. It also invites us to be still, warmed by the fire side and listen, really listen to ourselves. Perhaps that’s actually the bit we are really scared of? Just as well we have the fire, warm cuppa or tree for company.
Oddly enough the person who showed me the soft subtle magic of Christmas was my mother, who was German, and sorry folks, but the Germans just do, do Christmas rather well. She always loved the magic of it and frankly the year she went it was a gift for her to be released that day and not to go on and suffer.
So whatever you are facing this year, this Christmas – trust it will be ok – eventually if not right now and may the warmth of the yule log help to ease that pain whatever it is and if you need to have time out – have some time out!
Christmas Angel Blessings be with you!