Surviving "Merry" During the Holidays

  • Many of us are receiving Christmas cards now, which of course wish us "Merry Christmas."  And why not? We all want everyone to have the best Christmas they can have.


    The problem is that life happens, even during the holidays. There's no hold on problems, sickness or even death. During my heaviest caregiving years, we had Christmastime deaths two years in a row, and then another death a couple of years later. None were on Christmas Day, but they were close enough - before and after the holiday- to affect the whole family's feelings during the season. The timing of these deaths was particularly hard on the children. However, we rarely get to choose when we die.

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    What brings this rather somber thought to mind, other than my general awareness that this holiday season can bring pain as well as joy, is a card that I received today from a wonderful couple who were my parents' friends and neighbors.


    The woman has lived with aggressive multiple sclerosis for decades. Her husband has been the ultimate caregiver, remodeling their living quarters, doing the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, feeding, reading to his wife, and anything else needed.


    This couple is in their eighties, now, so I've been expecting to hear one of these days that a nursing home was in the offing. Today, in the greeting card, the news came. The husband recently took a very bad fall that has left him with some lingering health issues. The wife continues to lose more of her abilities to this dreadful disease, day by day. Soon, her sight will be gone. The time has come where she can no longer be cared for at home.


    These folks have fought a courageous fight. When they've faced a challenge, they've found their way around or through it. They will now face this major life change together, and continue bravely on. Characteristically, each is worried about how the other will cope with this major change.


    As this couple has traveled this difficult journey hand in hand, they've not only kept up each other's spirits, they've kept up the spirits of those who know them. This couple is on my personal "most admired" list.


    The friendship they  showed my parents, long after most people "couldn't handle" my dad, since his brain surgery left him with severe dementia, warmed us all. They never stopped caring and went to great inconvenience in order to visit my parents in the nursing home. The wife also called my mother nearly every day, and they'd visit like they did when they were neighbors. Even when Mom no longer made sense, this wonderful woman never gave up.


    This will be a rough Christmas for these folks, but they are celebrating just the same. I expect this will also be a rough Christmas for many of you who care for someone with Alzheimer's disease, or other illnesses. However, if you can gather together with friends and family and enjoy love, as this family does, you will also find the season can bring joy. Love is, after all, what the season is about. Reaching out. Helping someone. Offering sympathy if someone is hurting. Laughing together, rather than sitting alone. Caring.


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    There is joy is most times of life, even if there isn't always classic "happiness." If we look for the joy in a situation, we can usually find something to be thankful for, even if it's just a chance to hug the person you love one last time. Blessings to you all this holiday season.


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Published On: December 04, 2010