Archive for Holidays – Page 2

Holidays: the Best and Worst Season of the Year

The season of the empty chair . . .

The season of the empty chair . . .

When a writer writes, a question that accompanies every effort is: who is your audience?

With this being the time of Thanksgiving (and the unofficial plunge into the other end-of-the-year holidays), I write for one person.

She hurts: in her bones, in her heart, in her soul. She would like to vanish right now, and reappear sometime in January after the interminable holidays are finished. He hates the thought of “celebrating.” There’s nothing he’s grateful for, and spending a day sharing a table with friends and family for “thanks” and “giving” seems a cruel joke.

After all, the wonderful person I am writing to is ill. But she doesn’t have a cold or the flu. She’s ill with a life limiting disease. Ill as in now or soon she will enter into hospice care.

After all, the overwhelmed person I am writing to is a caregiver. This time, for him, the giving of care will be far more than providing chicken noodle soup or hot tea. His loved one is dying.

After all, the precious person I am writing to—and there are so many in this season—is grieving. Every day has a dose of pain. Holidays increase those “doses” to unbearable levels.

How can we celebrate a holiday when facing death?

How can we celebrate a holiday when grieving?

How can we celebrate in the season of the empty chair? Read More →

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The Third Gift of Christmas

stained glassChristmas is a difficult season for someone whose doctor has announced, “I think you should consider hospice.”

Silent night, holy night!

All is calm, all is bright.

Christmas is a difficult season when caring for a dying loved one . . . or being the one cared for.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Christmas is a difficult season if it’s the first holidays without a beloved child or spouse or parent.

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

In my neighborhood, lights twinkle along the darkening streets. Santas and snowmen and manger scenes sprawl across lawns. Families gather around tables. Colleagues join for parties at work. Children tremble with excitement and parents weary of telling the kids to be good. In cathedral’s large and sanctuary’s small, millions will meet on Christmas Eve, singing the familiar carols.

But your world is crushed. Read More →

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Happy Thanksgiving: Don’ts and Dos

IMG_3029When making bereavement phone calls around Thanksgiving to those who have had a loved one die, I often ask, “Is it okay for me to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving?”

I don’t want my “Happy Thanksgiving” to be an autopilot greeting or a token farewell. As I try to be supportive, I don’t want to assume anything. This year, this holiday, is different in the worst way for the family I’m contacting.

It’s the small things that are missed most after a death. Sharing coffee. Joking about the year the garbage disposal clogged on the potato peelings (though it wasn’t funny back then!) Taking the evening walk after the big meal. Complaining about the whacky, out-of-town uncle who always arrives late with a lame excuse and a cheap bottle of wine. Washing dishes together after everyone has left. Playing board games with the kids, even when the kids are now adults.

Aren’t Thanksgivings—and other holidays—a struggle under “normal” circumstances? The family get-togethers may be charming on television commercials, but can be alarming in reality. Old arguments and new tensions are avoided most of the year, but Christmas or New Year parties forces everyone into the same room. On that Thanksgiving where your kid spends the day with the family of his or her “special friend” . . . you say you understand (and you do, but you don’t). There’s the call that comes from the loved one stationed overseas. Or the phone that never rings. We fret over carving a turkey, but holidays have a way of carving our hearts. Read More →

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