Saturday, December 19, 2015

Joy - Hope - Peace

Several years ago, a friend at work gave me three little brass-toned Christmas ornaments; each is a single word.  One says "Joy"; one says "Hope" and the third says "Peace."  I hang them up every year on my cubicle wall, among other decorations I have accumulated over the years.  

Two Christmases ago, scarcely two months after our youngest daughter passed away, it was hard to put up those decorations.  It was hard to do much of anything.  Another friend at work decided to honour our Arielle (after first checking it with me) by giving out snowflake ornaments to everyone who came to our unit Christmas luncheon.  Although I don't normally attend such functions, I did agree to go - and it was so meaningful.  Since that time, several people have told me that they put up their snowflake every Christmas and think of me and of Arielle's story.  That touches my heart.  Her story needs to be told, and remembered.

Arielle's favorite holiday was Christmas.  She loved the lights and the colours, she loved the tinsel and the carols, she loved the crowds of people, and she loved all the feasting and family traditions we had.  And yes, it doesn't get any easier to go through our family traditions without her.

Image "Festive Snowflakes" by
Victor Habbick at

I will say, though, that during the holidays, the presence of friends as dear as family does make a difference. It gives us a reason to carry on those traditions and still honour Arielle's memory without becoming too despondent.  She would never want that anyway.  She hated for people to be sad around her.

This year, for some reason (and I have my theories as to why), there was some of that old spark that I used to feel around this time of year - not an excitement, but more like a little inner pleasure as I prepared Christmas gifts and cards for those who are dear.  I find myself looking forward to baking my deep-dish pumpkin pie the night before, and cooking that Christmas supper meal I have planned ... sharing food, friendship, and fellowship with friends and family ... is that joy?  

I also find myself feeling somewhat rejuvenated, since simplifying my life and reducing the amount of stress I was experiencing, de-stressing over a period of the last seven months on a couple of different fronts - and with the reduction in stress and hectic-ness, comes the perspective of hope ... that quiet confidence that all is happening as it needs to happen ... and that the future will be better.  Part of me is amazed that this would be the case; after years of striving to experience hope, it should light upon me like a butterfly once I stopped striving.

What is surprising most of all is the sense of calm that surrounds me at such times; I have noticed it occasionally as I have looked after myself and refused to entertain any kind of performance anxiety.  I noticed it again tonight as I put the final decorating touches on the tree, and then leisurely tuned the television to the fireplace channel and listened to soft Christmas music playing - everything from the Nutcracker to Silent Night.  Yes ... yes, it is peace.

Pervading all of it is an underlying current - one that is growing stronger as time goes on - that growing knowledge that I am loved unconditionally.  It is that love which saturates down into the core of me, where all those insecurities mill around and wreak havoc.  As I am less and less exposed to people, places and things that feed those insecurities, I sense and accept more of that love, and it (in turn) produces joy ... and hope ... and peace.

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