Originally published as a column on CFJC Today on December 26, 2016.
It was after 11pm on Christmas Eve that my husband and I took the dog out for a walk. It was quiet. Magic of a different kind. Snow crunched under our feet as we walked, the dog sniffed this way and that, and Christmas lights shone beautifully on so many houses along the way.
The path took us to the Christmas house on Pine and 6th.
The wealth of garlands is enough to make you go wide-eyed every time. Say what you will about excess and wasted electricity, the thing is the lights make people smile. Inside and outside smiles too. That the lights have been a way for the owner, Louise Edwards, to relieve some of the weight her counselling job brought into her life, is not to be ignored either. Stories of pain and grief, stories of hope and recovery, humanity surfacing through each blinking or steady light around her yard. As sobering as it is jolly.
That time of night you could hear a trickle of carols from some garlands wrapped around sleepy, snow covered bushes.
We stopped a while to listen. Fragments of life surfaced. Christmas does that to a person. Not having my parents around anymore adds a layer of sadness that will never go away. Hanging on to memories, dusting them off as I tell the boys stories about my Christmases past, feeling a bit more that emptiness left by my parents’ passing, feeling the richness of having learned so much from them while they were still around and afterwards too.
Quiet tears added to the sparkles laid all over trees, bushes, and house. The unseen side of Christmas, the roots that go deeper each year and gain more significance, the simple truth of what matters in the end: the time we get to be with those we love, the time we find to understand that each of us carries the story of laughter and tears, grief and happiness. All transient, all worth every second of their ephemeral nature.
An invisible owl hooted from a tree as we left, adding eeriness to our quiet night walk. Another piece of magic added.
Today, Christmas midday found us on a frozen lake, lost in an ocean of white. Dog and kids and grownups stepping on each other tracks, swapping laughter, memories, stories and steaming cups of coffee. It will all be shelved for later Christmases, it will all be remembered and treasured. It’s the simple things, the time put into just that… simplicity.
On our way home we pass by the hospital. Another slice of life with a flavour so different than what most of us associate Christmas with. I think of all who sit by someone’s bedside, of all those who are hanging onto life or are about to say their goodbyes; I think of dear friends who carry their suffering with so much grace and how much I have learned from that, mostly to never forget to say a prayer. Thoughts like that always find their way to those you think them for…
I think of babies being born, of the joy trailing behind them, of all the hope they bring and all the precious lessons they bring along, as every human does. If only we’d pause long enough to pay attention…
I think of those who work on the day when most of us have our loved ones around, whatever their work may be. Just being present and willing when most of us take a break. Time offered as a gift, a different kind of offering.
It redefines gratefulness, our dependence of each other, our ability to give if we choose to, and our need to swap the roles of giving and receiving every now and then so we can reach the wonderful understanding of what it takes to be human.
Wherever this holiday finds you, allow for joy, sadness, and allow for thoughtfulness towards fellow humans. It is what matters in the end. No story is written by each of us alone, but by all of us stepping into each other tracks, swapping stories, sharing laughs, offering hugs, meals and wiping tears when needed. Another kind of magic…