Life goes on. It’s the only thing I know for sure.
You leave the hospital after holding your dad’s hand as he took his last breath and people you pass on the road have just picked up a pizza for dinner or are on their way to meet friends to celebrate a birthday. Life goes on.
This that I know for sure is never more evident than at the holidays. All the tasks we need to accomplish by the 25th have to be squeezed – who am I kidding? – SLAMMED – in among the normal insanity of work and home obligations. You get a bad cold? Presents still need to be bought. Financial troubles? Your kids look so forward to getting the decorations out of the attic and setting up the tree. Grandmom in hospice? She’s the first one to tell you to carry on with Christmas as usual, asking if your cards are in the mail.
In my experience, there are two approaches when your eggnog turns sour and you’ve got a house full of thirsty pirates wearing Santa doo-rags on Christmas Eve: denial and despair. You can pretend that the bad thing isn’t happening, never speaking its name and pushing it down whenever it pops to the surface of your psyche. Newbies to this method will find it popping more frequently than the bag of kernels in the microwave to be transformed and strung on the tree. Practice of this art form makes perseverance.
Despair, on the other turtle-dove, is as natural as non-yellow snow. The tears fall on the paper as you wrap gifts and your compromised coping skills are no match for the songs of the season. You go through the motions of December but this thing that is breaking your heart and scaring you to death makes the Grinch look like a penny candy thief. It hangs over your head everywhere you go like mistletoe without the benefits.
In recent years, Novembers have brought serious illness to my husband and I and the sudden, tragic death of my dad-in-law. Although we minimized the activities surrounding it, Christmas was never cancelled. Whether it was stubbornness that this special time of the year would not be ruined, it would not take this from us too, or a diversion tactic and something to throw ourselves into in lieu of profound sadness and fear, life went on.
Christmas went on.
I don’t know how any of us keep going but somehow we do, in our own unique way. Every life is different and our persistence comes wrapped in varying shaped boxes, some tied in ribbon, others adorned with a bow. Mine is in a gift bag, with a convenient handle. Call it Christmas spirit those few weeks at the end of each year, but carrying the human spirit all 52 weeks is how we go on.