Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Cup of Kindness

In September 2010 my best friend Sandy died. It was a hard year, watching cancer progress and my friend suffer, and her family suffer.

Christmas didn't feel much like Christmas that year. At least -- it didn't feel like I was used to it feeling. The magic seemed to have lost its power. I worried about it but told myself, 'Never mind, it will be back. Next year it'll be just the way it was before.'

New Year's, the last night of 2010, was unnerving. I wasn't prepared for the grief I felt. In my heart I stood before the doorway draped with holly, mistletoe, rosemary and snowdrop, and realized it was time to step through and leave Sandy behind.

I saw the last page of the chapter and the blankness on the other side, inviting me to turn the page and begin the next part of the story, and thought I'm not ready; I want a re-read.

New Year's Eve 2014. Here is the close of a chapter of painful loss and painful growth. Our lives have changed this year -- my daughter was forced to face the reality that a part of her life that she loved, the world of horses, in which she excelled and in which we all took a lot of pride, was actually a destructive force for her spirit. She brought it to a nearly complete end.

My other daughter has spent this year grieving as her older sister grew up and away -- suddenly the 30-month gap mattered in a way it never had before. It's rare now to hear them playing together: more common for the older one to be texting her friends trying to find someone else to hang out with. So the younger sister has been struggling with that feeling of being not enough for the most important person in her life.

And, of course, as the year turns over tonight, we will be leaving my father-in-law David in the past.

There are awful things about being immersed in the moment of grief; the days and months surrounding it are full of hurt and painful introspection. For a while we're in that Between state, out of the main current of the world turning over our private sorrow, reliving all the past happy times, and all the more recent suffering and uncertainty. It can be terrible.

But it can also be satisfying -- meeting our own deep need to come to terms with sadness and loss. As much as it hurts, it feels right. And the memory of the loved one we have lost is keen and fresh, and still very much part of the present.

At first Dad is right in front of you, wherever you look. The last email you got from him was just a few weeks ago. There he is, in the photos you've been meaning to edit from the family reunion. I remember finding books Sandy had lent me, in a pile waiting to be returned to her. It's almost as if your loved one has become a cloud that you move through wherever you go -- a cloud both of presence and absence.

The time goes by until one day, in order to see them properly, you find you have to turn your head.

Now that Dad's last year is ending completely, we'll have to turn all the way around, our backs to the future, and look behind us.

Tonight I'll light candles and think of Dad, and my children's waning childhood, and all my many private sadnesses. I'll write a list or two and dwell for a little while on what I hope will happen in 2015. I'll pray for all the people I love.

As you carry both your happy things and sad things through the doorway into 2015, I hope that you'll be able to put down what you need to. Set some extra weight on the ground and leave it here where it belongs, in the old year. I hope that you've had laughter and tears in 2014 and that both have served you well.

We've wandered many a weary foot. So here's a hand, my trusted friend, for the sake of times gone by.

Be well, and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dress Shop of Dreams

The Dress Shop of Dreams: A Novel

Christmas is here, with all its spice and sleepiness. For the first time in months, I spent a few hours today reading a book: Dress Shop of Dreams, by Meena van Praag. It was a great way to pass the afternoon. It's a lovely thing like a slice of what they call 'plain cake'; simple yet sumptuous.

Dress Shop of Dreams is a sweet story about a few people who are turning in the wrong directions and need to be put right. The book has romance, clever plot turns, a little suspense, a good dose of emotion, and just a whiff of sorcery.

The dress shop really is magical, and that element of fancy, of fantasy, made the book such a pleasure to read.

Amazon tells me that Meena van Praag has written a few other books and, having enjoyed this one very much, I'll be reading the rest this year.

Thanks, Meena, for this little swirl of magic at Christmas time!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Paging Linus van Pelt

I came online this morning and took a look at the blog, and thought: I've not posted for two months? I guess that sounds about right - on the one hand, I hardly noticed the time go by; on the other, sometimes every day is like a month.

Christmas approaches fast, and with it the end of a difficult year. I'm trying to use a single word to describe 2014, but everything I come up with, sounds so dramatic. I think, "Maybe "gruelling"?" But then I wonder whether "gruelling" is yet to come, and I ain't seen nothin' yet.

Not a very optimistic approach to the new year's possibilities.

My children come to me, anxious, upset that they're "not in the Christmas spirit." I feel so badly for them. Not in the Christmas spirit?! I worry, They're only children! But then I remember that, when I was 13, I despaired of ever feeling it again.

I guess they'll just have to get through it, like I did.

Like I do.

Hard not to scramble around trying to think of things to DO to make it happen for them.

Gingerbread? We could do another gingerbread house...

The Nutcracker is playing down-island...should I invest a couple of hundred dollars and take them...?

We could go up and spend the day snowshoeing on the mountain...

Maybe volunteer at the Food Bank again...

I hate that I can't fix it. I can't just put them in charge of directing the Christmas play, and getting a tree (a GOOD tree, not a POOR tree), and have them learn the true meaning all over again.

Solutions for this problem -- growing up -- don't come in 20 minute animated specials, classic though they might be.

And they don't come in blog posts, either.