Three Days Before Christmas

I’m sitting alone in my apartment thinking about the days ahead. I don’t want to sound like I am feeling sorry for myself. Actually, I am in a good state of mind, as opposed to the last few years. I recently thought about my niece who is currently going through a round of chemotherapy having been diagnosed with a malignant breast cancer. I’m thinking about the cold outside and those people without a home, just trying to survive the night. Some won’t. My hope is of course that my niece will. But that’s not really the point is it, it’s more about how I am handling a few days before Christmas.

When I was growing up the Christmas holiday wasn’t a big deal. We gathered with family and had friends come by or visited extended family, and that was it. Having dinner and sharing laughs with one another was far more important than the material side of things. I grew up to not expect presents nor have a great comfort level handing them out. Part of that I’m sure had a lot to do with having money on hand. I never had a lot and I still don’t. What I do have is an appreciation for moments that are important to me in my life.

I remember when I was 12 years old I lost my cousin who was five months apart from me in a horrific car accident. He was skitching with friends (holding onto the bumper of a car) and sliding on a quiet road when the car swerved and he lost his life in the confusion. He and a good buddy both died that night and a part of me did the impending weekend of grief. That was my first experience and it came just weeks before Christmas and a planned visit to our cousins and relatives for the holiday. What was celebratory turned into a funeral. I don’t know if I conceptualized that any time soon afterwards. Perhaps years of confusion so much so I still think about it today.

When I was 23 I was living alone in Minneapolis and I was invited over to my cousin’s for Christmas dinner. I remember feeling a bit awkward because I was scraping by in the city and they were all doing well. I drank too much and barely making it through the dinner received a ride home from my cousin shortly afterward. I sat down in my apartment and wondered about the rest of the night. I decided to iron shirts and listen to music to pass the time to help alleviate the loneliness I felt in my heart. I think I had just lost a relationship at the time so I was feeling particularly broken. At one time as I was moving through a closet of dress shirts with my iron, my phone rang and I immediately smiled and wondered who it might be. I went for the phone and oddly it didn’t ring again. One ring and I answered a dial tone, and hung up in confusion. No one ever called back and I think I wept while ironing the remainder of my shirts. I’ll never forget that night and how barren I felt inside.

I bring myself back to tonight sitting in my apartment alone a couple of days before Christmas. I have things planned for the coming days so I won’t be alone. But, I do think about being alone. I lost my marriage a few years ago and now celebrate living alone and adjusting to how different my life is today. I have my kids in my world and so that is a relief. In the first couple of years of the divorce I really thought I had lost them altogether, but not so much anymore as I do see them when time allows and it is always a joy. As soon as they go home I wish I could see them again within the next day, but I’m getting used to the space in between. I will spend time with them both on Christmas day and that will be enjoyable and fulfilling. I spent last night having dinner with my son for his birthday and that was better than a dad could ever ask for. So I do find fulfillment despite writing about being alone tonight.

I think back to a couple of earlier scenarios – the affliction of cancer my niece has been cast, and the homeless tonight. She is upbeat about all of her chemos and how she responds to each. I tip my hat to her as she faces an insurmountable emotional drain having to acknowledge there is cancer in her body. It makes me stop and think about my focus on my woes occasionally. Again, that feeling arises when I think of the plight of the homeless. Tonight, the windchill will drop to well below zero and people will struggle to find warmth all night, some won’t make it to morning. I cannot imagine such pain for my niece and those without shelter. It gives me pause.

So I guess my point to all of this is to acknowledge the days ahead. In my own world I have shelter, enough to eat, a healthy body and the prospect of seeing my kids over the next couple of days. I really ought not need to ask for more, so I am hoping I can continue to see the beauty in life as I know it. I don’t have to find a place to sleep and needn’t dwell on my dependency for chemotherapy. So what shall I do with myself? Well, it starts at home.

I’ll appreciate the world around me. I’ll be thankful to have my friends and family in my life. I express relief in my well being and health. I’ll pray for those with a deeper struggle than my own. I’ll stop short of feeling sorry for myself and focus upon a full heart and kindness for my fellow man. I’ll celebrate the beauty of knowing each other and finding the meaning of love as we come to the close of another travel around the sun. I’ll be one with our world on this the night of our winter solstice. I’ll feel peace and pray.

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