Surviving the Holidays: Remembering loved ones

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As a child, Christmas was my favourite. I loved the decorations and spending time with my family, especially my mother and grandmother. Growing up, I loved them both equally. My mother was fun and loving and often like a big sister, while my grandmother and I were close like a mother and daughter.

Last year was the first Christmas without my Grandmother; she died on January 14th 2013. We came home from the hospital to a house that still had lights and a tree. Almost two years have gone by, and I cry when I say that she has died.

Facing the holidays without a loved one is terrible, but it becomes so much more so when the relationship was centered on that holiday. To say that our relationship centered on Christmas sounds strange, but it’s true.

Growing up, Christmas was my favourite time of year. My mother and I would spend days decorating our house and then days decorating my grandmother’s house. Both would be trimmed head to toe in Christmas lights (you never saw a lamp or overhead light on in December). There were big holiday dinners and lots of time spent with family.

I have, in my brain, our entire family history through Christmas ornaments. Whose mother-in-law it came from, how many generations back we’ve owned it. My knowledge of Christmas extends into my knowledge of our family history as well, since every time we went hunting for an ornament or rearranged for the holidays, photo albums came out and I was taught every person’s face, even if it was just an uncle’s friend who came for dinner that one time. My Grandmother and mother shared with me during these times not only the history of our Christmas ornaments but family history.

I’m lucky: my first Christmas without my grandmother came right after a major life change involving relocation and was the first Christmas with a significant other. Even though it had been a year since her death, I was still heartbroken and in that year, my Christmas changed completely. Instead of a big sit down dinner on Christmas Eve, I have an aunt who hosts the same family members but in a different house and with appetizers, and goodies galore. Christmas last year sparked the beginning of a new tradition with my other half – we agreed Christmas Eve for my family, Christmas Day for his grandmother and Boxing Day with his mother.

For some people, so much change following a loss can leave you feeling more lost. For me, the only way to enjoy Christmas was remove from it so many of the ties to the past. And yet, I still hold onto bits and pieces.

I recently purchased a set of Christmas ornaments off eBay that match a set my grandmother had. Through the long journey of finding the ornament, I was once again back in her living room, being told this history of the ornaments. Instead of colourful people stories of where they came from, the stories I learned this year were about brands and dates. I discovered things about my grandmother that I didn’t know. Like that she preferred a certain brand of ornaments.

I’ve been told by family and friends that I’m lucky I got so much of my Grama. That she shared stories about herself and her family, about growing up and her life with me so easily should make me feel blessed. And it often does.

My grandmother’s decorations were scattered. Pieces here and there. I see them now and then, and I may tear up but I hold fast. The bulk of the tree ornaments have been stored by my mother until she moves into a larger space where a full tree can be erected. Some people hate that they can’t see my grandmother’s tree again in one piece. To them, the tree is a centrepiece to their childhood happiness that they miss and they wish we could rebuild it each year for everyone to enjoy.

For me, I am glad that they are the way they are. I wish they were mine, on my tree. I so selfishly wish that everything she owned belonged to me. But the truth is, I am glad that we all got a part of her. I am glad that the ornaments will never stand together on one tree. Because even if we kept her tree, and placed every ornament on it, it would never be whole. The tree would always be lacking the heart and soul of it. The voice telling you what ornament belongs where and who bought it for whom.

As the years go by, we will all build our own families. Spouses, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Nieces, nephews, and great ones too. We will take our ornaments, and our small piece of her and build up our lives. Our trees will all have heart and soul. And one day, we will be the voice telling the children what ornament belongs where and who bought it for whom.

—- Jane

 

How to survive the holidays when you LOVE the holidays!

Christmas Joy

“It’s that time of year

When the world falls in love

Every song you hear seems to say

Merry Christmas”

As you all probably know, it’s that time of year, and my favorite holiday, Christmas time!

Now, I know that not everyone is excited about this time of year, and for good reason. Christmas can be a stressful time of the year: pressure to buy gift, getting the house ready for your in-laws and other potentially stressful visitors; it can all be enough to drive anyone crazy.

But not everything about the holidays is bad.

In fact for some people, like myself, the holidays become a magical time for us. I, personally, wait all year long for this time of year.

There’s so many thing wonderful things to enjoy that only come once a year.

Everything is so beautifully decorated, especially the houses. I love to walk around my neighborhood at night and see all the decorations that people have put up. I know that Christmas lights are just colored bulbs strung together on a green wire. But to me when I see them light up, it’s like magic. I love decoration for Christmas, when I finally finish and plug all the lights in, and see the masterpiece that I’ve made.

Then there’s the Christmas movies, and TV specials. I love seeing all the TV shows air their Christmas episodes. And the movies bring back memories from when I was kid. My favorite ones are Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Home Alone.

And you can’t forget about the stores. All their displays are lit up with lights; Christmas decorations are in just about every aisle, and as you shop, Christmas music plays throughout the store.

This brings me to one of my favorite things about the season, the Christmas music!

The radio stations take a break from playing their regular music, and for the entire month, they play those holly jolly, cheery tunes that always put me in a good mood.

There’s also candy and other treats. Christmas cookies, festively decorated. Assorted chocolates, candy canes, fruit cake, and let’s not forget about hot chocolate! All these treats are always sitting on store shelves, in their Christmas edition bags or boxes.

But my most favorite part of Christmas has to be giving presents.

I know that we all have our own interpretation of what Christmas and the holidays are about, but I believe that it is about giving. And it doesn’t have to be just giving presents, it can also be giving your time, and helping someone.

As I’ve gotten older, I have enjoyed giving to others and seeing their reactions much more then I have receiving.

Don’t get me wrong, it is very exciting to get gifts, I will admit that I still get excited on Christmas Eve. But we should all remember to give.

Giving is much more rewarding than receiving, making someone happy is a wonderful and powerful gift.

So this holiday season, take the time to give to someone else. Whether it’s buying a gift, spending time with someone, or volunteering at a local shelter, you’ll make a difference in someone’s life.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and share with us some of your favorite things about Christmas. Send us a tweet, or tell us in the comments.

We can’t wait to see what you post!

Merry Christmas Ugly Ducklings!

 

— Mariah