Silent night

We suspect there will be a time of quiet reflection on Christmas Eve this year.

Memories of years past will feel distant – before there was COVID, when people joined as one, without worry or fear, to practise beliefs and honour traditions. Better times lie ahead.

Like many friends, relatives and by extension the community at large, this will be the first Christmas where someone is missing from the fold.

It is a rite of passage we have mentioned often in the last 30 years writing this newspaper’s Christmas message, urging compassion for others finding it difficult to make merry. Deep down, it was an affirmation that at some point it would become a topic of personal introspection – another unavoidable element of life.

The loss of a loved one does cast a long shadow for a time, but grief in our home has finally given way to thankfulness. Gratitude has replaced sorrow and we can only hope other families who suffered a loss are getting along the same.

It will take time, yes, but eventually memories will stir a smile for having experienced something special, rather than causing a frown for missing out.

It always was a family tradition to join grandma and papa at church on Christmas Eve before heading back to the farm for a late supper. While it would be perfectly natural to begrudge the last two missed Christmases, I remain particularly thankful for that last real one in 2019.

There are those who can sing, those who cannot and those who should not. Firmly ensconced in the latter, it is my tradition to murmur along, hymn book in hand. The lights in the church were dimmed that night and without a set of readers to help out, I had to rely on memory for popular hymns. Should not, became could not fairly quickly.

To my amazement, dad, to my immediate left, riddled with arthritis stood resolute as if delivering an anthem. Despite struggles with light conversation or keeping up with the events of the day, his voice rang clear – “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright” – each pitch reached, each note hit and every word sung without a miss.

Although memories eventually fade, that Christmas Eve service gave cause to pause, remember fondly and smile.

What shall this Christmas bring?

There are very few years that the kids don’t ask what I want for Christmas.

Apart from a few subtle inquiries from one of the four, there hasn’t been a chance to offer up “world peace” as my gift of preference again this year.

Or maybe, they have just given up, knowing that I want for nothing except a world where people get along and live good lives. Such a gift isn’t easy.

There are people suffering in our very midst. Instead of a far-flung place around the globe, they are here. You can see it in people’s faces – even though most are covered by a mask, the hurt is there.

Frustrated with family, frustrated at work, anxious about their health. Worried about their kids, panicked about the future, ready to be offended, willing to pounce. The ravaging nature of the pandemic continues. But it can be different if we make better choices.

Choose to be kind this holiday season and have faith that better times lie ahead.