When looking at the title of my latest blog post you may be asking yourself how can any Christmas be unexpected. After all it happens annually on December 25th for the vast majority of us although, Orthodox Christians celebrate it on what is referred to as 12th the Night which takes place on January 6th.
This year Christmas was going to have a different feel to it as we had lost my late Wife Shan back on the 8th of February.
When a family loses someone there are many milestones which have to be reached and got past. We have got past Shan’s birthday, Shan and my Wedding Anniversary and then my birthday as well as my Stepdaughter Kate’s. All felt very different because we were not sharing them with one who had been central to all our lives. That having been said, Shan would have wanted all those celebrations which can continue to do so.
Looking back to Christmas’s gone by, they have not all been the same. For example, my first Christmas was spent in our family home in Efailnewydd on the Lleyn Peninsula of North Wales just 3 months after I left the care of the medical staff at Alder Hey in Liverpool. Having me at home was still new to my parents.
When I was 12 I spent Christmas as a patient on the Children’s Ward at Abergele Hospital. After having my leg shortened by one of the best orthopedic surgeons in Europe at the time, Professor Robert Owen. He was professor of surgery at Liverpool but had been in grammar school with my Dad.
The staff were incredible. They made it as much of home from home for of us as they could but it wasn’t what a child would recognize as their family Christmas.
Last Christmas I had been out of hospital for a few months and was recovering from a nasty injury to the base of my back. My Wife was with me and my Stepdaughter was there for part of the big day. I wasn’t able to cook the meal as I had done the year before so everything felt different. It was a lovely day and it felt special as I was spending it at home. It certainly aided my recovery.
As this Christmas came into view I concentrated on getting gifts for close family but not feeling festive as my Soulmate wasn’t going to be physically there. I was really low until two or three days before when it dawned on me that Shan would want us to celebrate and share the gifts we had with each other. Our family unit, like many in the world today, is not made up of blood relations. That having been said we have a strength built on the knowledge that we love and care for each other.
On Christmas Eve, my care team left after the final call of the day. I then went to turn on the TV and the screen stayed black and no sound either. On Christmas morning they arrived again and we did the checks we could think of having contacted the cable company to check I had a signal. My tv had given up the ghost. So, for the first Christmas since I was five I had no tv. Thankfully I had my tablet which gave me access to some programmes whilst it was charged. The day reminded me of what it was like back in Blaenau Ffestiniog as the son of a minister where money was tight.
Thankfully, money is not quite as tight today and as soon as the Sales start I can organize getting a new TV and enjoying the programmes I love again.
Next Christmas I won’t take it for granted that I will have all that I am used to and that all those I love most will be there. Christmas will be there as usual and it won’t be celebrated in the same way in every home. In fact, there will be many homes where families won’t be able to celebrate at all. Some will have had life changing news or experiences which will put the day in a very new and stark perspective.
All I will say is, if Christmas is important to you and your family make sure you keep close to those you love throughout the year because circumstances can come along and turn any day of the year upside down.
This year quite a few of my family and friends have worked to help give the homeless around the country a bit of Christmas cheer. It saddens me that the 6th biggest economy on Earth has seen an increase in homelessness and rough sleeping and the disgrace of food banks has become common place in the country we call home. Surely, it shouldn’t be beyond the government and it’s experts and the charities and church communities to sort this problem out. Everyone should have a place to call home. This is one problem that we have to solve before we can call ourselves a real civilized society.