My mother’s cousin died yesterday; three days before Christmas. Jill was ninety-one. On Sunday, my mother spoke to her cousin’s daughter; you could hear her intellect trying to convince herself that what she already knew to be true was not about to happen. There would be no more Christmases together. When you hear the nurse say they are resting comfortably, you know… I saw my second cousin just a few months ago. Whilst she didn’t look healthy, there were no apparent signs. But life spins on a dime, and when you are ninety-one, it spins pretty fast.
Coincidentally, several weeks ago, I had scheduled a post to land yesterday across my social media platforms. I use an integrated program. It does it all for me. I’d forgotten it was about to drop. It was an excerpt from a post from some weeks ago where I had outlined the Forty-Eight Things I Learnt in 2021. What ended up as my social media post was my number one takeaway of the year. It colours any other learning. Particularly this year. It is a year when division for many families and friends has been forced upon them by governmental mandates outside our control. We often forget what we have in common is far more plentiful than what holds us apart. We all too easily let fear and emotional complexity in the way. We forget that there are not endless Christmases in front of us – there are only so many to be enjoyed. And unfortunately for some, endured.
I believe it is so important that I post that part again today. I have held back the scheduled post for this week as the sentiments may be more critical this Christmas than perhaps many others. It’s a reminder to myself.
Last week I went to Kmart. At the counter, I asked the attendant what she was doing for Christmas.
“Spending time with family” was her reply.
I paused, hearing there was more to the story and asked, “how’s that for you?”
“You know – sort of good and bad.” She said with a half-smile—a wry smile.
I nodded and smiled, paused, and answered, “how about we focus on the good this year”.
She laughed— “Ok.”.
Each time my brother is back in Australia, we have a tradition. A tradition I wrote about in a post eighteen months ago. – “The Force is Strong with This Tradition.” He created the idea of A Gentleman’s Day Out. Here the male members of our family and any close male friends who can, meet in the city for too much food and the adventure of wandering around the city centre visiting the state library, the law courts, or museum. Then, of course, there are always visits to our favourite stores. A photo of one of those adventures was part of yesterday’s social media post. It has received the most significant response of any post this year – by a long shot. Its sentiments touched a nerve.
My number one takeaway for the year was a condensed version of a conversation that Rick, the obviously “non – Thomas” in the photo, and I had earlier in the year. Its sentiments are applicable every day, but perhaps more so at Christmas as we spend time with people most emotionally connected to us. Here we can see our weaknesses and strengths reflected back on us. Sometimes unwillingly.
My number one takeaway for 2021 – Here it is again.
It is essential to keep a difference of opinion lower on the scale of importance than friendships and family relationships. I had a dear friend of many years summarise this better than anyone so far — “We have been friends since we were six years old. That is more important to me than anything else. So let us agree to not talk about things that we differ on so strongly that it may affect our friendship. We more than likely will not change either of our minds, but it could destroy 99.9% of the rest of what is important to us.”
As my extended family will testify, “it would have been great to have had just one more Christmas together with Jill”.
Let us appreciate the ones we love – there are only so many Christmases together.
I got the band together to give you the best of the season. Let’s make it a good one. Click the pic and turn up the volume.