“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
If this sounds like Pandemic Holiday Season 2020 (or all of 2020,) I could not agree more! But it also reminds me so much of Husband Dying of Cancer Holiday Season 2013. As I wrote shortly after this crisis started, there are too many similarities between the grieving process and our current total upending of life-as-we-know-it that keep coming up in my mind. With the holidays well upon us, I am reminded repeatedly of my 2013 experience.
So how is it possible that my memories and associated thoughts and feelings around that tumultuous time are overwhelmingly positive, even happy?
My 2013 journal says it was not a time to be remembered positively:
Nov 27: Dan not good this morning, in terrible pain, barely walking.
Nov 29: Dan had a miserable night, slept 1 hour. Then didn’t sleep all day today. Pretty messed up, hurting.
Dec 7: I was on my knees crying at one point.
Dec 13: Pretty emotional and worried about Dan. Hard.
Dec 15: Dan came to bed hurting at 6am.
Dec 24: Dan hip flexor very bad, legs oozing.
Dec 26: Poor Dan, hurting and fatigued tonight from Xofigo infusion.
Dec 31: Feel like I’m barely staying on top of things.
Jan 6, 2014: I’m so stressed and sad about losing Dan
And those are the words I feel okay making public!
But during the worst days of my life, I also wrote:
Nov 15: After passing out on couch last night and then being wide awake, Dan and I were like two little kids, laughing and eating at 2am!
Nov 25: A lovely morning. Dan dropped me off at dentist at 8am and I walked up to Starbucks and met him for a latte.
Dec 1: Dan made crab cakes—yum!
Dec 5: It was a fun day.
Dec 16: He was so happy!
Dec 30: Dan is fired up about his athletes these days.
Jan 8: Dan brought me roses!
Jan 11: Dan had no pain all day, he kept saying what a good day.
And those are the words I feel comfortable making public.
I knew deep down that it was the last Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Day (also his birthday) that I would spend with Dan. I didn’t want to admit this to myself at the time. But perhaps I realized even in the midst of the turmoil that there were precious moments to be enjoyed and appreciated; to be tucked away into my heart and soul. I’m so grateful I wrote down my days, good and bad. I’m so thankful I somehow understood that every moment needed to count, good and bad. And almost eight years later, it’s still a gift I unknowingly gave myself.
So how do you focus on the good moments and set aside the impact of the stressful ones while you’re in the thick of it? You choose and you keep choosing. We’re living through the holidays anyway. Why not make a conscious choice to be fully present, aware and appreciative to the best of your ability?
To linger an extra minute on the phone (or Zoom) with a loved one. To grab your partner randomly and tell them you love them before they walk out the door. To turn your attention away from your device or the TV to be present with your family. To take extra pics and videos (oh, I took so many and I am so glad!) To make note of all the moments, so that you can look back and regret nothing. (I am so grateful for my journals, those last days of my husband’s life not entirely lost to time and fading memory.) To write that card or email or text you’ve been putting off. To laugh and love and laugh some more, because sometimes that’s all you can do.
When everything can change in an instant and control seems tenuous, we have the opportunity to focus and stay focused on what is most meaningful to us in our daily lives. We’re living through Pandemic Holiday Season 2020 whether we like it or not. So, why not make every moment count?
Wishing you and yours Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.
Previously published on My Edmonds News