As Christmas day approaches we find ourselves surrounded by family and friends and loved ones who we want to celebrate the day with but, for most, there is always an empty seat at the dinner table.
Loss is difficult at any time of the year but during the holiday season we meet with family who we haven’t seen for a while and statements like “Sorry to hear about…” or “Hows your [insert relative] since the death of [insert other relative]”. Having to answer these questions over and over again can be painful and heartbreaking but those asking don’t mean anything by it, they’re trying to be supportive and we love them for that.
One tradition my family had took place on the last Sunday before Christmas. We’d all go to Great Uncle George’s house for tea and sandwiches. All of my mother’s side of the family would arrive and we’d say our hello’s and how are you’s and exchange cards and gifts. As the years went on the number of people attending got smaller. Sometimes because they just didn’t want to and often because, with the likes of my cousins, they’d moved away and couldn’t travel back for one afternoons cup of tea. Can’t really blame them. Sadly the most prevalent reason for people no longer being there was that they’d pass away. One by one the myriad of great aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles, cousins, second cousins and people I’d only ever see once a year got smaller and smaller. It was obvious and it was depressing. I love being part of a big family and it’s sad to see it get smaller.
Today would have been the day we’d met up but this meeting no longer goes on. Great Uncle George and his wife Edna have passed on. Auntie Winnie and Auntie Olive are gone. Uncle Gordon too. None of them here to tell me I’m getting taller or to ask me about girlfriends (yeah, I know!). I’ll raise a drink to them today and wish them a happy Christmas wherever they are. I genuinely do miss them all.
If you’re visiting people this year and you know they’ve suffered a loss during the year be considerate of their feelings. They may want them talked about and remembered fondly. They may also wish for it not to be mentioned. Whatever they choose, and whatever their reasoning, respect that. They deserve it.