Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
It is indeed the season; the evidence is all around us. The frenzy of December is hard to ignore. Each year I promise myself I will not get sucked into it and the next thing I know I have done the thing I said I would not do. This happens mostly because the month sneaks up on me (even though Black Friday is now the 4th of July). I work full time, travel a lot, and still want everything to be perfect. Suddenly it’s here.
I remind myself there is much more to December than shopping and decorating and make a valiant attempt to keep these two things in perspective. Our kids are grown, so the years of “must have” toys are behind us. Internet shopping has simplified our lives and solved our parking problems. That aspect of the season no longer burdens me.
December has a lot of memories that are special to me. I have an Advent calendar I still put up even though there are no children to open the windows. I try to carve out time to make my house smell like gingerbread and we decorate the mantel with our collection of nutcrackers and our tree with vintage ornaments. Sometimes there is an elf on the shelf. There are always cookies.
This is the time of year when we should slow down, not speed up. It is too easy to get caught up in the material and forget that family, friends and traditions are what make holidays special. I will never be completely free of the December frenzy but I work hard to find a balance I can live with. The majority of the time I succeed in my desire to have a family and faith-based Christmas.
This year I have a bittersweet reminder of why this is so important. My friend Cyndy’s mom is dying. She is an amazing woman—the bedrock of her family and a much beloved member of our community. Her family is devastated by this news, and at the same time they have rallied around each other and come to be with their mom.
Cyndy and I are alike—we both love the holiday season and dive into it head first. We make plans, get our creative mojo on, and look forward to once-a-year traditions. The escalation of her mom’s illness changed things and Christmas has taken on a deeper, meaning because it is the last one they will have together.
Betty is meeting this head-on; with bravery and grace. Her original prognosis was reduced from months to weeks when stage 4 cancer was diagnosed. She said simply, “God is getting ready to turn the final page in my book.”
Cyndy’s family is celebrating Betty, gathering around her and being present for her and for each other. Plans have changed or cancelled completely to honor and support this amazing woman. The spirit of Christmas is with them, and it is a family-first holiday.
I ask if there is anything she needs and she tells me no. She is a Ninja organizer and she has things under control. This is how people like Cyndy and me cope. I know there really is nothing I can do but accept the reminder, in this time of grief and sadness, to treasure those we love and the time we have with them. The loss of someone we hold so dear reminds us how vulnerable we really are and why we must learn to live in the now.
A Little Bit More
The commercialism of Christmas always gets to me. It starts at Halloween and invades our senses as it creeps towards Thanksgiving and Black Friday. It is a holiday that has become more secular than religious.
Cyndy and her family, along with Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, remind me that the real meaning of Christmas is a feeling. It does not come from a store but from those we love. Sometimes that reminder comes from a combined place of sorrow and celebration.
I want the beauty and tradition of this season to fill my home. I want to celebrate with friends I cherish but don’t see often and make the time to create hand-made gifts. Presents to myself include reading the scriptures during the candlelight service at our church and weeks of baking and listening to Christmas music. But I also want this season to be a reminder that a little bit more can go a long way.
- More family: the one we are born with and the ones we chose
- More patience: for myself and others
- More generosity: gifts of time as well as money mean a lot to those who receive them
- More compassion: a good way to close out the year and reset yourself for the new one.
- More cookies: Because
A gift you give yourself has a way of expanding and spreading to others and grounds you during the holidays. Those we love, flannel pj’s, hot spiced cider (rum is a spice) and Pentatonix help us keep it real.
Such kind words when we need them most. It IS all about family. Mom always gave her all – all we are doing is giving back. Love that lady!
Hi – Cyndy’s daughter… I want to thank you for taking the time to think of our family & write such kind words. As you’ve mentioned & I’m sure you’ve seen on countless occassions, my mom is one of the strongest people I know. All of my grandmother’s children (my aunts & uncles) are amazing…. & that is one of Betty’s greatest sucesses. Thank you for so gracefully capturing our situation & reminding whomever reads this of what really is important. Please know that this really made my day. Thank you again.
I am Cyndy’s sister and that amazing woman’s daughter. Her generosity and spirit are truly unmatched. You said it well. She is our rock. Thank you for honoring her.
I am Cyndy’s sister-in-law (Dan’s wife) and wanted to let you know that all you said is honest, true, heartfelt and means a lot to this family. As her Mom said, “I am blessed” and so are we!
Thank you all for your kind words and for allowing me to share your story. Betty is an inspiration, and so is her family as you face this situation with so much love and compassion. I am honored to know Betty.