The last few days have been tough for my family with the sudden passing of my uncle. When something like this happens so close to a season when you’re supposed to be jubilant and jolly, you really begin to see that for many people, “the most wonderful time of the year” is more like “the most difficult time of the year.”
Grief is a complex and interesting thing, and in that state of fragility, many emotions come to the surface when you’re least expecting them. Standing in the checkout line at Dollarama. Driving along a country road listening to Christmas carols on the radio. You’re more sensitive to the smallest of slights, whether real or imagined, and sifting through the myriad feelings of hurt, anger, relief, hope, resentment, shock, and peace can leave you feeling exhausted. It’s hard to keep the tears from spilling over when someone cuts you off in traffic or bumps into you in a crowded store and doesn’t apologize or deletes your comments on Facebook, and to remind yourself that–like all things–this too shall pass …
Despite everything, my heart is overflowing with gratitude for all of the many gifts and blessings in my life, both big and small. Even though Thanksgiving is traditionally the holiday for counting one’s blessings, I think it’s even more important to be grateful in the midst of loss and pain. As a friend used to ask, “Are your hurts going to make you bitter or better?”
In no particular order, I am thankful for:
- Amazing friends. You know who you are, and whether we see each other on a regular basis or hardly at all, I love you and keep you in my thoughts. Thanks for the encouraging text messages, coffee dates, listening ears, prayers, and most importantly, the gift of your friendship. Some of you have really helped me through some difficult things especially this past year, and I’m eternally grateful for your unconditional support. A special shout-out to both my Book Club and Writing Circle. Cheers to dovetailing interests!
- The best family ever. We may be small, but we’ve got a heck of a lot of love for each other and have dealt with more than our fair share of death! However, we’re stronger than ever and continue to prove that blood is thicker than water. I have incredibly strong, spiritual, powerhouse parents who are still as much in love as they were in the 1970s and my mom is my best friend who knows me better than anyone. I have an inspiring big sister who has followed her heart and is carving her own path in Alberta. I have a loving and sensitive big brother, a wise and beautiful sister-in-law, and the sweetest little nephew who has captured my heart. I have a hilarious little brother who is 20 going on 25, and an affectionate and loyal pet schnauzer. I have a handful of pretty amazing aunts and uncles and the best cousins ever, one of whom feels more like a pal who just so happens to have had a very similar upbringing. Whew … I could write a novel about how fantastic my family is, but I mean every word of it!
- Music, always and forever. I don’t know you personally, Marcus Mumford and Sufjan Stevens, but your beautiful music has especially spoken to me in the past few months (and you’re both rumoured Anglicans. Interesting.) Your faith is inspiring and something reflected so creatively in your art. As you sing in “Thistle & Weeds,” Marcus, I will hold on hope. For your listening pleasure, here’s my favourite band of 2010 by far:
- Beautiful books. Specifically this year, I think of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, both of which have had a profound effect on me.
- The simple, everyday moments that take your breath away with their perfect orchestration. The other day, I was sitting in the coffee shop waiting for my friends to arrive and drinking a chai latte. For a brief moment, no one in the coffee shop spoke any louder than a whisper, if at all. No milk was being steamed and no smoothies were being blended. “Dream a Little Dream of Me” was playing on the radio. Sun was streaming through the window. In the words of Stephen Chbosky, and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.
- Favourite hymn + favourite band =
Wishing you comfort and joy this holiday season.