The cliche goes: “It’s always around Christmas.”
Illness. Death. Heartbreak. But, the truth is, “it” is around us just as much every other day of the year; it’s just that at Christmas, it feels more poignant because it is a time when we are all supposed to be feeling jolly with the yo-ho-ho-ness of it all.
The reality, in adulthood, is invariably different; it doesn’t mean that we are incapable of joy, but pleasure comes tempered with the knowledge of corresponding sadness.
I lost my father just after Christmas nearly 26 years ago. A close friend lost her father on Boxing Day a few years back. In December just gone, two friends lost their mothers.
It is hard to think of anything new to say about the one thing that every living creature has in common. We are all born, and we will all die - there you go, another cliche, but no less poignant for its being so.
But it is in times of loss that we find comfort in cliches: they are a uniting force in a world that continues to separate us in so many ways. Cliches are the emotional levellers: the things that strip us to the core and reveal that, at their deepest level, our raw, primal instincts are the same: we want to love and we want to be loved, and the pain of either being taken away is, at best, painful; at worst, unbearable.
The manifestation of those two primal urges leads us into all sorts of difficult territory - desire, jealousy, insecurity, paranoia . . . I could go on - but when we lose love, it hauls us back to the heart of the matter: the very beating of existence, physically and emotionally, that defines our existence, independent of the social mores and other “stuff” we find ourselves heaping upon it to make life more difficult than it need be.
Because, as better people have said, in superior cliches from those I am managing, love is all. Corinthians 13 tells us everything that love should be, in its purest form, but it’s pretty unsustainable in the modern world. But, when the physical body of a loved relative or friend departs, one is left with that very spirit, the essence, of love - at least, if you have been lucky in the people with whom you have encountered it.
We may delude ourselves in sugar-coating the less than savoury aspects; we may hide our grievances and guilt in shadows me might not wish to revisit for many years; we may lie to ourselves and others about life, death, and everything in between. But in that moment of departure and what it entails, we become as babies once more, especially when that death is one’s mother: the being who brought you into the world; the person who, literally, gave you life. You really are on your own now; the umbilical cord severed.
This wasn’t quite how I imagined wishing everyone a Happy New Year, but I’d like to change it slightly and wish you all a loving new year.
For me, 2015 was a year of some great stuff, some less than good, to say the least; a time in which I learnt a lot and, I hope, shared knowledge I have been lucky to glean, with others. It was a year in which I was a joy and, I have to be honest, at times a right pain in the arse. A year in which my friends loved me for the former and forgave me for the latter - and in which I, too, loved and forgave them for both, too.
Because we’re human beings. That’s what we do. We mess up and we repair. None of us sets out to do a bad job, and the fact that we end up doing so at times doesn’t really matter; it’s how we put it right that counts. And the people who love us know that.
And so, my sincere condolences to my friends who have lost people dear to them this year; and my thoughts go out to the many people who I know face a difficult year ahead with treatment for their various illnesses.
I am blessed having you all in my life, and thank you for your patience, kindness, acceptance of my eccentricities (even though, to me, I am the most normal person on the planet, obviously), and I send you all the love I have for the year ahead.