Another Beginning, A New Tradition…

In light of the missing desire to write, I realized that the lack of writing has retarded my recovery from Dan’s death.

My heart is empty so why am I surprised that the posts are missing? My grief counselor noted that my writing helped me with loosing Dan on a daily basis.  Now, that I do not attempt to write, my recovery from loss is at a stand still.

I don’t know just how much I can squeeze anything out of my emptiness, but I do know that my lack of desire to write doesn’t indicate a lack of issues in my heart.  I need to write more now than ever.  It is the same pain and that seems to tranlate into the same words. I don’t write because I feel that I am redundant.

The Basement experience continues to reveal more things that I hid from myself and it took that event to help me understand that I was content to live my life “underground”. That is definitely not where I want to live nor do I have the luxury of living in a withdrawn state of mind.

The quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption has taken on a daily reminder. “Get busy living or get busy dying.” I believe that I was only wanting to hold still. When I do that, my circumstances always take the initiative and makes choices for me. Realizing my lack of action has left me without any satisfaction, circumstance becomes my decision maker and the frustration within myself builds.

I know better in my head. It is my heart that wants to keep any forward motion at bay. I know that I will not like what inertia brings to me.  My life experience has taught me that  non action  leaves me in a miserable state of mind.

So, what to do now?

I need to make a new tradition regarding the holidays. Recent events will change Thanksgiving. My dad’s family has always gathered on Thanksgiving. It was a feast and a time to see aunts, uncles and cousins that would not be seen until next Thanksgiving or at a wedding or a funeral. I can’t remember a Thanksgiving with my immediate family. It has always been the extended family and, with that, my cousins became  as brothers and sisters to me.

This past Thanksgiving, an aunt and an uncle were diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis for one is better than for the other. One family will be devastated by this time next year. The disease is very advanced and palliative care is the only treatment offered. The other has a brighter prognosis and another family will gratefully give thanks for being spared the heartache.  The health of the dwindling few will chang the  way that Thanksgiving has been celebrated for over 60 years.

My sister is also one that has limited holidays left. Her dementia is advancing at an alarming rate. What to do with her health and insuring a quality of life for her has become a priority for me and my older sister. We will have difficult decisions to make regarding her care as the disease progresses. The holidays will never be the same without her.

For Christmas, my tradition was always on Christmas Eve. It has always been a magical time. As a young girl, I loved being in church at midnight on Christmas Eve. It seemed to make Jesus’ birth the center of everything for me. Christmas in church made the meaning of gift giving more than commercial success. Remembering His Advent made Christmas and the joy of it real to the very depths of my heart.

Unfortunately for me, the church denomination in which I was raised did not have Christmas Eve services. The times when Christmas Eve fell on Sunday evening became my favorite Christmas’. Being in church satisfied my soul hunger. It satisfied my need  for a time of quiet contemplation. It gave expression for the joy that was rising up from my soul. I knew the meaning of the word, “REJOICE!”.

As an adult, I have tried to follow this soul hunger, but I have not been faithful to find a place to worship on that special night. More than ever,  I feel that I must find a place that has services on Christmas Eve so that my Christmas can come back into my heart.

In Christmas Past, when Dan and I were first together, our holidays were dictated by everyone’s schedule. After my divorce from my son’s father, my son usually left on Christmas Eve day and did not return until after New Year’s. That was very hard on me to be divorced and alone for all of the holidays. There was no reason to try to change anything. My son was 15 years old when we divorced. When he began to drive,  did what he wanted. It hurt to know that he didn’t want to be with me.

When Dan came into my life, that empty, lonely time changed. Dan had young children and I filled the void with him, his children and the crazy non custodial parenting routine.

 Dan’s children were not available until Christmas Day. Because he had children with both of his former wives,  Christmas Day consisted of him traveling in one direction and I in the opposite to pick up his children. We would drive back to our house, empty out the vehicles,  reload everything into one vehicle and we continued driving for another 2 hours to his mother’s house.

After years of this and my son’s marriage, I realized that my son and I were deprived of time together. He was in the Marine Corp and his time back home was precious. This crazy exhausting tradition was  unfair to him. I am sorry to say that I have many regrets for not seeing how            lop sided things were in regards to him when I didn’t get to see him on the Christmas holiday. I finally put my foot down and said that I was not going to drive away this holiday any longer.

Dan agreed. He had driven countless miles for visitation and holidays and it was time that we made changes. Of course, it wasn’t a popular decision with his family. We always invited them to come to us. A few times they made the effort, but most times not. Whatever concern I had in keeping the “Peace” with the in-laws faded. Too many years of misuse of Dan’s time with his children helped solidify our resolve. It was time that we protected the boundaries of our home and we made it a safe harbor for all of us by not driving 6 hours on Christmas Day.We began the tradition of picking up the children and having an afternoon dinner. This was much more enjoyable and it was more fair to my child.

As the kids grew up, having driving options and personal commitments outside of family, we again altered our tradition to accomodate everyone’s obligations. Now, they were driving the miles and the court could not dictate how the our holiday was celebrated. We began to have Christmas Eve as our time of celebration. Christmas Eve services was possible again. It was a most special service when we could attend with most all of our children. Those are the most precious memories.

After 9 pm and after having  Christmas’ with their extended families, the kids would begin coming in the door. Usually, my son stayed with Dan and Ime when he would come home from California. Even after eating a late supper, everyone was hungry or just couldn’t keep themselves away from the buffet that I would prepare. Eating and Egg Nog were in order. “Eat, Drink and be Merry…” was celebrated.

Everyone would stay up watching movies, playing cards or just “hanging out”. The house was full of laughter, music and a special memory in the making. Dan and I would finally give up and go to bed around 2 am. In the morning, everyone took their leave with a smile and a kiss. On to the next household where they were obligated. It was such a relief to not have to travel.

Those were the best years. It was a time when Dan (he was a great cook) and I would cook  for days. He helped me with the decorating of  Christmas trees and any other thing I needed done. He made everything easier for me. As in all things, we were a team. Preparing for Christmas or any holiday was great because we did all of these  things together. I miss him so as I try to put up the Christmas tree and bring out all of the things that have so many good and wonderful memories attached to them.

I miss those days when the house was full. Our hearts were full of joy. And, with the grandchildren, the memories would have only become richer. It is in remembering those Christmas’ that the pain of loss deepens.

Dan’s illness and death altered all of the former traditions. After his death last year, my son began his own tradition and he has Christmas Eve dinner at his home. He was weary of all of the “appointed rounds” and this seemed an appropriate time for a change.

His children get to open their presents in the presence of their NanNan. I don’t have to cook and his wife is a much better cook than me. She can do all of the British foods, i.e. sausage rolls, cheese sticks and Christmas trifle better than I ever did.

Yet, for me, it is an empty reminder that Dan is gone and my time of founder of the feast has gone with him.  Christmas Day is so quiet. I have no one to share it with. It is as if life and reality stands still and empty while everyone’s is full and busy.

This year, I am beginning a new tradition. I haven’t a notion as to what and how, but I am not going to continue to feel empty on that magical eve or on the following day.

I may have my own little party after my son’s dinner. Or, I may have others who normally would be alone to join me on Christmas Day. I haven’t decided.  My decision to move on without Dan must include a new tradition or I will spend the whole of the holidays missing him more.

Just another beginning in the process of new beginnings…I will still miss him. He loved Christmas.

9 thoughts on “Another Beginning, A New Tradition…

  1. Hey there Shadowlands,

    How much I could concur on your years of blended families and the feelings that accompany growing children in different households during the holidays – but that is not my task tonight. I simply want you to know that this thing of creating new memories, new traditions, is not easy. You know this all too well.

    There’s something revealing about our new traditions, whether we know them beforehand or not. We have the unique opportunity to do things differently. Not that we would have wished for this, nor planned for these eventualities. But, here we are, and we are sometimes alone in our decisions about how our futures unfold. (We always were, ya know?) But, now, with our losses, we are compelled to view those days to come as something new, and if we are very, very fortunate, we can make them days lived out in our own visions. Whether we spend them alone, or just altered in terms of who is with us to share, they are ours.

    New beginnings are exciting in ways. Remember when we were young and we waited for things to change in unexpected ways? Exciting. We’re not young, but change can still be exciting and plentiful in gifts from unknown sources.

    I wish for you all the best of unexpected and exciting changes. Maybe you’ll see a sunrise that will mean something beautiful on Christmas Day. Maybe your Christmas Eve this year will be a time of quiet contemplation that will reveal an inner source of strength and contribution for the year to come. Maybe…you fill in the blank.

    I think of you often. I wish you a Merry Christmas Eve, my friend.


  2. Linda,
    It is good to hear from you. I know that your loss and the terrible grief that came calling to your heart is the most difficult to bear. It is the greatest kind of grief imaginable.

    I have found many words of wisdom in your writing and your comments to me. Thank you so much.

    Recently, as you suggested on your blod, I reread the comments made to me on this blog. It was a time of great insight . Thank you for your wisdom.

    And in this comment, I found another “pearl”. The traditions that are made belong to us no matter the circumstance.

    You are so right when you say that this is a painful and incredibly hard thing to do. Making new traditions will always be tied to the old ones.

    Missing Dan will always be with me no matter the season or the tradition. I shall find a way to remember the reason for joy and take him with me as I embark into this new way of living without him…

    Thank you for your kindness and generosity to me. I value it deeply….

    Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

  3. Shadowlands,
    It’s so good to see you writing again.

    I agree with you about traditions, and I’m not always sure why we always seem to want to create them. It’s not good to do the same things the same way every year — until, perhaps, suddenly we can’t do them like we used to any more.

    Good luck with finding some new ways to make the most of Christmas. The holidays are hard to get through, but it’ll soon be January, and just getting there is a huge achievement.

  4. I’m just checking in and see that you are back to writing. I don’t know the pain you are feeling with the loss of your precious Dan but can completely sympathize with all the blended family stories. There were times when Coach and I drove 10 hours to get his daughter and then find out her mother came to town the next day and could have brought her with her. We did what we thought was best. Today we still seem to do this juggling act trying to work around all the other families but we love the time we have with our kids and they seem to love all being together here in our home. I wish you peace this Christmas and know that your new tradition will bring you joy.

  5. Hi sweetie – I haven’t stopped in for awhile but you are always in my heart. Traditions are hard because eventually we must change them as our circumstances and lives change. It’s hard especially because we have no choice in the fact we lose cherished members of our families – some far too early as with your dear Dan. My heart aches for you as you watch other family members go through difficult health issues – my own father died after having Alzheimer’s and it was awful. This year I lost mom and both an aunt and uncle. I really have no family left except for Devoted Spouse and for him I am thankful every minute of my day. We, too, enjoy going to services on Christmas Eve – it’s our quiet time to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas not the next morning of opening up gifts. You know, sweetie, it’s okay to just stand still when you need to. Only move forward when you want – movement can’t be forced. I am happy you are starting new traditions; I have come up with a few of my own. My Christmas wish for you is to find that balance between the old and the new where you can live a fruitful, happy life knowing you are loved and needed. Merry Christmas dear friend.

  6. Hi Stepping thru,
    Those were tiring and difficult days in the moment and now, they are the most cherished memories…it was worth it all.

    Thanks for checking in…I am trying to write more but it isn’t coming to me easily…

    Thanks for your support and your comments.

    Merry Christmas!!!

  7. Linda,
    It is good to see you here. I check your site often, but the words are difficult coming even for a comment…you always bring a smile to my face and that is the greatest gift.

    Yes, traditions must change with the dynamic of families…I find that families are like people…they are young, they mature and then they age…

    My immediate family is in the aging department and it is hard to watch. Yet, it is in the wonderful memories made in by-gone days that make appreciation for the time together precious, especially when we are left here and they are onto new adventures in the heavens.

    New traditions are difficult because there is no one else to think of, it seems. And, when things were so hectic, it was this time of life that we drew upon to get us through them…who could have guessed that we didn’t have those dreamed of days as the “Grandparent’s house” for all to come to….

    Thanks, my friend for the smiles, the comments and your support…

    Merry Christmas…

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