photo courtesy: Alexandra Petruck
This time of year we are hard-pressed to go anywhere and not hear jolly carols, receive happy greetings, and watch movies about the joy of the season.
Whatever your religious leanings, the reason for the season could be the birth of Christ or just an opportunity to enjoy the gathering of loved ones and exchange gifts.
But for many it is also a time of sadness, loneliness and heartache.
I attended a church service this morning where the sermon was on joy. The minister asked the congregation to talk about what makes them joyful or jolly.
One woman took the microphone and said, "Our family is currently going through a difficult time settling my father's estate." She sat in the pew with her shoulders curled inward, speaking quietly.
"My brother and I haven't spoken for a long time, he was estranged for many years, and this has given us an opportunity to reconnect."
Another parishioner rose who teaches at the university. One of his preacher students discovered that she has cancer.
With no money and having to move to a rental unit that is closer to downtown, he knew that she was in a difficult spot. He put a request to other church ministers to donate to her plight and in one day he raised $8,000.
The final person to speak was very moving. She told us that this would be the first year that she would not be spending with her family. "It was a deliberate decision as it would be easier to spend the holidays apart than be together."
The most striking thing was that she ended by saying that she and her brother live next door to each other. When she finished speaking, she started to weep. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room.
I couldn't imagine not being around my family at Christmas and being estranged from my only brother. But a bitter divorce that happened years ago has caused us to not be together with my dad.
Some families cope well with divorce but ours is not one of them. Separating the celebrations doesn't make it any happier or joyful when you're always thinking what that other person is doing.
The pressure to be jolly is not at play for everyone, but I see it as an opportunity for others to be a little kinder, slower and more thoughtful this season.
You may meet someone who needs it and that may bring them a little more joy.
Merry Christmas everyone.
My husband and I turned 50 years old today.
There's no getting around what a novelty it is. Sharing the same birthday and now turning 50 years old together.
Last year in one of my first blogs I wrote about what turning 49 meant to me. It was just after my husband had finished cancer treatments for glioblastoma. That year and the year before it were a roller coaster of events and emotions.
Now here we are!
Adam really wanted to throw a party to celebrate our dual 50th birthdays, but I was against it. I love a good party, going to them and throwing them for others, but this one didn't appeal to me.
For years we talked about how we would like to celebrate turning 50. I was more interested in going away while Adam always talked about having a big blowout with family and friends.
I suggested to him that he have a party, and I would help him organize it and attend as a guest. He said, "How can you be a guest when its your birthday too?" It made perfect sense to me, but he wasn't buying it.
Then one day this past summer I met the remarkable Elly Gotz for a coffee. He told me that year he celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary as well as his 90th birthday. Both were with parties.
Elly and I had talked about his hard life in the Holocaust and his love of life. He always found a way to have fun.
He learned about the rough times that my family had gone through recently.
I told him about our upcoming big birthdays and that I wasn't interested in doing a celebration. Elly leaned into the table, looked me in the eye and quietly said, "Janet, have the party."
What he was telling me was to enjoy life, celebrate the moments and not hold back.
So this past weekend we had a big party. Love, laughter, and good dance music filled the room. It was a great feeling and I don't regret it for a minute.
And 50? So far, so good.