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There is nearly always a bittersweet feeling about the end of a year. We recall the good and the bad, and if we’re a bit lucky, the good memories dominate.
I think we can all agree that none of us was really sorry a year ago to see the end of 2020. Between the pandemic, the last administration’s mishandling of it – the lies, the subterfuge, the daily death count – and the unnecessary confusion surrounding the election, it was a very bad year, indeed. It was hard to find or remember the times that gave us joy and a sense of well-being.
For my family, that was all overshadowed by the terminal illness of my oldest child, Martin. In the same year that we celebrated his 50th birthday with joy, we also observed the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with full knowledge of his impending death.
I consigned 2020 to the trash bin with a sense of relief.
On January 2, 2021, Martin left this earthly realm after three very hard days when he was in great pain, despite the heavy sedation being administered by hospice. His brothers and I kept vigil at his bedside, and were there when he opened his eyes and truly saw each of us just before he took his final breaths.
We were still deep in our grief when the trump-generated attack on the US Capitol took place. Such an unprecedented event turned our attention once again to the deep divisions within this nation. Even throughout those dark days, I missed Martin. I knew that he would have been next to me as we witnessed a history neither of us could have dreamed of.
I know in my heart that Martin would have struggled more than most with the ups and downs of pandemic restrictions/relief that were the hallmark of this year now ending. He was faithful to wear his mask during the early days, but as it dragged on, as the conventions changed almost daily, I’m not sure how compliant he would have been.
But there are also good things to recall about 2021.
Holding a place in my joyful memories is surprising Jason on his 50th birthday by showing up unannounced to everyone (except Lisa Cerezo – I know better than to pay a surprise visit to a daughter-in-law, especially when planning a week-long stay!). The look of surprise on Jason’s face when I walked in the door is forever imprinted on my mind’s eye! Even having to cut my visit short due to several of us contracting COVID-19 can’t erase that joy.
I was also thrilled to be able to resume some limited activities at my church, along with some dear friends (all of us vaccinated), and then – finally! – to be able to resume services in the church instead of on Zoom, in November. True friendships are a precious gift, and I’ve made several during the almost three years I’ve worshiped at St. Aidan’s.
Also in November I made yet another plane trip to Illinois to spend Thanksgiving with Jason, Lisa, and the boys. It was the first time in the 25 years of their marriage that I’d spent a holiday with them in their home. It was a delightful time – we made cookies, memories, and Thanksgiving dinner – and is a highlight of 2021 for me.
And now, as 2021 winds down, I have managed to get through the first anniversary of Martin’s last celebrations: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and, soon, New Year’s Eve. This will be a hard one. He always called me, wherever in the world he was, to wish me a Happy New Year – both in his time zone and in mine. It was a moment we shared for more than 30 years and I cherished it. Last year, he slept through it all as I sat at his bedside and held his hand. This year, I will be at Ben and Briana’s home, saying goodbye to the old year with them.
In 1992, my family endured the wrath of Hurricane Andrew, holding shut our front doors as the storm decimated the neighborhood. Yet, as I told several people, it wasn’t the worst thing that happened to me that year; it was also the year my mother died and that was far worse than a hurricane.
This year just ending certainly had more than its share of awfulness, but Martin’s death put all of it in perspective for me. I expect there are more dark days to come; humankind always seems to find ways to grab disruption and discontent from the jaws of joy. It’s our nature, I think.
And yet I am choosing to look for the joy. I am ever-mindful of my loss and at times I am almost overwhelmed by grief. But I also know that I am blessed. Blessed with good friends, with two amazing sons who grieve with me and look to my well-being. I’m blessed with two amazing daughters-in-law whom I cherish, and with five grandchildren who are the light of my life. I’m blessed with a sister and brother-in-law who, though far away, are still connected to my heartstrings; with a niece, nephew, extended family, and those who I call my “shirttail relatives” – not related by blood, but by choice. And I’m blessed by you, my Facebook friends. Some of you, I know, some I’ve briefly met, some I know only through your words on this medium. You bring joy to my day, even if I don’t always comment on it.
So, 2021, I bid you farewell. You delivered more than your share of pain and sorrow, but you were also a year that managed to bring joy to my world. For that, for so many things, I am thankful.
As 2021 wanes and we look forward to a new year, I say this to you, my friends: Look for the joy. There is always joy to be found, there is always hope. Sometimes you have to look really hard, but if you do, you’ll find it.
Happy New Year!
“Illegitimi non carborundum.” 😉