By PAT WATSON
The familiar scent linked with joy-filled Christmases wafting in the cold air from a small army of pine trees lined up for sale brought with it a wave of sadness this year. With Christmas Day nearing, the beautiful scent greeted me on a chilly night, a short time after having to say a final farewell to a beloved member of my inner circle.
This time of year is going to be very difficult for people who have lost loved ones. The people who live in the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic where 47 were killed by a train explosion just five months ago are now coming to terms with their first Christmas without them. Being a small town, everyone is either related to, or knows, someone who died. Their common loss would have to be a vital bond for supporting one another as Christmas Day approaches.
Similarly, in The Philippines, a nation made up mainly of Christians, many are still recovering from the devastating typhoon Haiyan that took the lives of thousands. Many families there and relatives here are experiencing their first Christmas with this great loss.
The loss of a loved one at any time is one of life’s awful obligations and greatest difficulties. To face a time meant for joy and celebration without that person could bring sorrow, especially if this is the first Christmas without him or her. Our abiding love for our special someone and the emptiness that we experience when he or she is no longer physically here requires that we reach for spiritual comfort to sustain us as we go through the season.
It requires some effort to not just mourn the loss but also to celebrate the gift of that person’s presence in our life while still here. Some will prefer to be among friends who can be a source of support, and who can crowd out the waves of emptiness that inevitably come with such a loss. It is best not to try and tough it out alone.
If people are not able to come to you, then consider making preparations to spend time with others. The best way to fill the kind of void that such losses bring is to give what you can to others, most especially your time and your kindness, and especially at this time of year.
The feeling of bereavement that can come at Christmastime from the loss of someone we love is not just for other human beings; many who have lost beloved pets also grieve.
Life in the urban complex removes city-dwellers from the fullness of nature, but having a domesticated animal as a part of the household is an enhancement; it is beneficial to many people’s emotional wellbeing. So it is understandable that people who have lost pets will also experience grief.
That’s where I was when the scent of the Christmas trees reached out and touched me. Just days before Christmas, my family had to make the decision to surrender the care of our beloved cat to the humane society. The cost of medical treatment for her health problems, which appeared quite suddenly, was more than we could bear. So to save her life, she had to be turned over to those who can make her well again; the stipulation being that she would not be returned to us.
We hope she recovers and finds a loving home. But we cannot be sure. So we are saddened by this loss in our home, especially at this time of year.
Some will scoff at expending grief on a cat, but anyone who has a pet knows how they add richness to daily life. So this Christmas will be a little less cheerful, but we will honour The OC by remembering the friendly spirit she was in our life and in our home. We believe she would want it that way.
Of course, if Saint Nicholas would bring her back to us that would be just terrific.
A note on Christmas giving…
If you had won $40 million as Albertan Tom Crist has would you give the entire sum away? For many, the retiree has put the Crist in this Christmas by his actions.
Acts such as these restore one’s faith in human nature.