.. and so it begins, the countdown to Christmas.
The children are beside themselves with excitement. They can barely sleep just thinking about waking up to open the first door of their advent calendars. It is the build up, the suspense and the magic that they love (that and the chocolate).
We are Catholic, so the school that my little boy goes to practise a mixture of traditional carols with more modern songs. The children go to assembly each week and learn about Advent and the story of Christmas, along with rehearsing for their Christmas plays. I often smile to myself just listening to them singing the songs that they have learned with each other – sometimes getting the words wrong – and exchanging them for hilarious alternatives.
I have always loved Christmas, it is a day of celebration and happiness. A glimpse of warmth and sparkle within the gloomy Winter days. It makes people wrap up warm to go for walks, and stop to take some time out from the busy hustle and bustle of work/ home life to spend quality time with family and friends.
This year I am all too aware that Christmas can be a difficult time for some, and that we need to try to remember the important things in our lives. Not everyone can afford lavish expensive gifts, not everyone has their health and to some it is a time of great sadness.
For me, this year, the countdown to Christmas is a reminder of the time my life changed forever.
This time last year I was doing much the same as I am today. Rushing around between the school run and work. Making lists, preparing Nativity costumes and having a good old moan about the cold weather. How naïve I was. How lucky I was – that they were my only worries in life. Already I find myself taking some things for granted when I promised myself that I would never do so again.
I find that the days are all merging into one and that I am desperate to make them count. But perhaps making them count means to take the value out of the every day bits, and not necessarily to make exaggerated statements in life?
So I have decided that I am going to treat this Christmas as if it were my last. I unwittingly did the same thing last year – through all the unknown and the fear, both myself and my husband were adamant that illness would not spoil our family time together. We wound it all right back to take the stress out of those things that tend to strip the joy out of the fun things. Instead of visiting everybody else we invited family to us. We did many things in advance to make life easier, the tree, the food and the wrapping. Where we would normally be panicking and trying to do all of those things, we instead made time for each other and for a glass (or two) of wine of an evening.
This year the children have surprised me as they have not really responded to the usual questions about what Santa may bring them with any real enthusiasm. Of course they are excited about Santa Claus coming and the idea that their letters will magically disappear up the chimney, and even the presents that he may bring – but at the moment they are much more interested in their Christmas concerts. I jokingly suggested that we should perhaps go away for Christmas on holiday, to relax in the sunshine, and my son was not at all impressed. I can already tell that he is a ‘home bird’. For him Christmas is about home and family. Both children are very keen for both of us to make their concerts, and they will be so excited & shy & proud to sing for us. Those are the things that mean the most to them.
Of course I would be lying if I said that the run up to the anniversary of my diagnosis was not on my mind. It is, every single day. I keep on thinking this time last year and I remember very clearly fighting back the tears at those same concerts, whilst smiling back at the beaming faces seeking my approval.
I have thought about it a lot, and no doubt it will stir up some strong emotions – but I have decided the best way to deal with it all will be to follow my children’s lead and focus on the things that really matter.
I am treating this Christmas time as if it were my last.
I am going to look forward, not backwards. I am going to do something positive on that particular day and I intend to spend as much time with my family and friends as I possibly can.