Erin's Journals

Monday, November 27, 2023

Just a thought… Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. [Dr. Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning]

Here we are less than a month until Christmas and, of course, counting down to many other significant holidays that take place at this time of year, all having to do with light and hope.

Sometimes both can be hard to see or to fathom. But let me tell you how this year is going to be different for Rob and for me.

When the summer turned to fall this year, we both started feeling the dread that comes with knowing Christmas is just a few metaphorical calendar pages away. Last year we let down the side, as it were; as much as we tried to put on our happy faces and really lean into the family holiday – dinner, games and fancy dress at our place Christmas Eve, then gifts, PJs-all-day and left-overs for dinner on the 25th – we let our sadness seep through a little too clearly, apparently.

We didn’t know; we were doing our best. The house was decked inside and out and our fractured hearts were holding together, we thought.

But as we realized that our efforts weren’t perhaps as successful as we pretended, we made a decision. For life is about decisions; as Dr. Frankl said, all we truly have is choice. And so this year we are choosing differently.

Last week we had lights permanently installed on the outside of the house so that we can turn them on/off with our phones and vary the patterns and colours as we choose. On Friday the kids and grandkids came by and parked in our driveway as, from one of the bedrooms, we looked out the window and demonstrated the light show while on the phone with them. (I’m on Day 8 of testing now faintly positive for Covid, while Rob seems to have dodged the bullet this time.)

Whilst we’ve been home and in a self-imposed quarantine broken only by dog walks, we’ve slowly put together our tree and lights in and around the place, stepping through never-ending sparkles on the floor and contemplating wrapping presents I’ve been collecting through the year to inventory who still needs what.

We’re also putting our sadness away in that spot under the basement stairs where the decorations live throughout the year. We have decided that eight years is long enough to let the loss of Lauren overshadow the very gifts that lie before us, that live just a short distance away, that grace our days with joy and contentment we never thought could be possible again.

We know that things can always change and those to whom we tie our hopes and hearts could leave at any time. The possibility makes us realize that, while we do the best we can every day, we could be doing better when it comes to the Christmas holidays.

And so on we go; the colourful small beams outside our house are symbolic of the lightness of our hearts this year as we continue to open them ever wider to gratitude and put away our sadness in a sacred place we will visit, but not with anyone but each other.

It’s all part of our journey, Rob’s and mine. And we feel warmth in the glow and the presence of who’s present, as we learn and we love after loss.

Rob WhiteheadMonday, November 27, 2023