Friday, December 19, 2008

365 Days of Christmas


It's not that I don't like Christmas. I do. The candle light, the cookies, the carols, the gifts with my name on them; it's all very appealing. The love and the warmth and the gathering. Makes for a wonderful life. But the monetary stress, because I never start shopping in June, and the pressure to express how much people mean to me in a condensed time frame, has left me cranky about Christmas.
The pressure to perform and provide every December drains me. I'd much rather spread the love and the presents out over the whole year. I'd rather gather with people I care for when the mood strikes and schedules allow, than the frenzied, blustery, obligatory last 2 weeks of the year. I've kept up the yearly rigor and angst because there never seemed to be a way out. Everybody blindly agrees to the frenzy and so I have gone along on the wild ride. But 6 years ago, when Jean came into my life, the frenzy began to fade.
6 years ago, I was hospitalized for drastic unpleasantness in my intestinal tract. The hope was to be home in time for the annual Christmas Eve uber-extravaganza. On the 23rd, however, all hopes were dashed. I wouldn't make it home for Christmas. How could I miss the frenzy, the food, the love, the warm-fuzzy family gathering? How could I miss Christmas? It was unthinkable.
After a slew of women came and went in the hospital bed next to mine, Jean arrived on the evening of December 24th. She was 72. Four foot eleven. She wore brown shoes. She had trouble breathing. I introduced myself and told her she was not alone. She mumbled thank you and smiled at me.
Jean was only in my life for 3 hours. She choked and stopped breathing when a young nurse came to check on her. A frenzy of activity erupted in our room, with doctors and nurses trying to revive her and 2 lawyers watching the process. I was sitting in the opposite corner, invisible in the mayhem. A do-not-resuscitate order was revealed, and she died. At 9:52pm on Christmas Eve.
While my family ate German confections around a sumptuously decorated table and sang carols in the glow of a candle-lit tree, I sat until midnight in the company of Jean. She, shrouded in the hospital-regulation wrapper for the deceased, still causing the air-compression bed to rise and fall under her weight, and me, shrouded in a new found peace.
Jean helped me realise how ridiculous is the notion of saving up my expressions of love for one season out of the year. That if I miss the season or the day, if I am not present for presents, I miss the opportunity to love. Jean helped me realise the season of Christmas is precious, but really not more precious than any other season. Because in every season and every day lies an opportunity to express how I feel about my friends and family. To celebrate the birth of goodness. To give comfort. To share joy. To offer peace. To invoke the Christ-spirit in my life, if I choose.
So yes, I like Christmas. 365 days of the year.

8 comments:

  1. Graciel, This is so meaningful. I can't find the right words to express how this story has changed me....really changed me.

    This year has been a year of planning, of trying, of thinking why plans don;t work out as you would want them to, of making even more plans and trying even more..and yet, what is most important is being here, just truly being here with the people you love.

    Awhile ago, I was telling myself,the coming next year will e a year of "heart" for me. A year wherein I follow my heart to express what I want without fer that I might be rejected or laughed at or told how corny or sentimental I am. In my world of fast paced living, where everybody's goal is just money, where expressions are more often taken with doubt, I will be brave to give...give the love in my heart.Your story has reinforced my motive.

    My husband and I have decided that this year we will not be harassed. A simple dinner ( but delicious and probably hellishly fattening he!he! ) will be prepared, but to go crazy trying to buy everyone a gift is a no no.


    Merry Christmas Graciel. Much love from me.

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  2. My partner and I are trying oh, so hard to bring more meaning and peace to this season -- even in light of some extreme anger on the part of some of her family. So it helps to come here, to read this story and the following comment; it helps to know that we are not alone in our desire, we are not crazy to go against the grain, we are not "cruel" to cut back on the gifts. Thank you (and thank you, Jean).

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  3. Thanks for sharing this very meaningful moment in your life and the wisdom that resulted. I too struggle with the whole of idea of the Christmas extravaganza.

    There seems to be a movement now among many, to let go of Christmas as we've been told it must be and allow it to be (or not) as our heart desires.

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  4. I get frustrated and feel overwhelmed this time of year too, Graciel. As always, you have expressed so well the way I feel. We learn lessons from life in the most unexpected places and surprising times, don't we. Thank you for sharing your words. Very well done, my friend.

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  5. Thank you for this lovely entry. Jean gave you a wonderful gift that Christmas Eve. Every day is an opportunity to be grateful and share of yourself. Christmas is just a reminder.
    xox Shelagh

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  6. You are a beautiful woman who fully embodies her name - what Grace you showed in recognizing peace in Jean's death and holding vigil for her in her passage. What a beautiful thing, to walk through life with eyes open wide enough that you can see your angels, even when they are tiny, frail ladies in little brown shoes.

    I am so happy to have a glimpse of your wonderful, pilgrim soul.

    Solstice warmth and blessings,
    Marisa

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  7. Thank you Graciel for inviting us to enjoy a peek through the beautiful and inspiring glasses through which you view the world. Your words are a true Christmas gift to me and your many other readers.

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I always appreciate the time you take to comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by. Peace from my heart to yours. xo, Graciel