Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Christmas prayer

They said this Christmas would be difficult. And they weren’t far wrong.

It's odd to think you could dread a time traditionally so full of warmth and happiness. But I was warned that Christmas 2013 was not going to be easy.

Last Christmas was when Diane first complained of being unwell. She didn't manage to eat anything on Christmas Day and it was the first time if we are honest that we suspected something wasn't quite right.

But there were so many bugs knocking about, we convinced ourselves it was just one of those. Diane was determined to shrug it off. She'd feel better in a few days, she insisted.

But it wasn't a bug...

This Christmas, it all feels very different. From making Diane feel too unwell to eat her Christmas dinner to taking her from me took this evil disease of cancer just six weeks. I remember sitting in the ante room on the hospital ward just minutes after her death wondering what had just happened. A few weeks before we had been making plans for the rest of 2013. Now she had been snatched away.

It made no sense.
And it still makes no sense.

I sit here, without her, sharing these thoughts with you. All I can do is wish she was with me once again in person rather than just filling my head 24/7. I wish I could see her across the room and watch her be ... well, just watch her be Diane, I guess.

But I cannot and no matter how much I beg, plead and beseech someone, anyone, somewhere, anywhere, to make it happen, I know it won't.

Sometimes, as Diane used to say, the answer to a prayer is "no".

Then it struck me. Or maybe she gave me one of those digs in the ribs when I’m being a bit slow to catch on. I’m not respecting her life and memory if I end up wasting what life is left to me by moping about. That life can still be full of surprises (yes even more than me losing seven stones and running a marathon). And she can still help me live it – we can still make this journey together.

The future is nothing but surprises. No-one knows how what's next. But it can only happen, it can only surprise me, if I grasp every chance I get. Only if I believe in it. Only if I’m positive.

There’s that word again. Positive. I love it. It’s my favourite word right now. It transforms darkness into light. It means there’s hope. You can achieve nothing by being negative but if you’re positive all things are possible. Not all of them will come off, clearly, but all of them will, for a short while at least, be possible. Everybody is capable of over-achieving if they want to.

It is, for example, possible to grieve for someone so dear as Diane and still carry a smile, still be optimistic and still over-achieve.

And I’m determined not to let her down by sitting alone at Christmas feeling sorry for myself. I can do nothing about the past. I need to make sure that whatever I do from now on is done in honour of her. If I think she’d be happy with what I’m doing and the way I’m doing it, then I’m happy too and I go ahead – no need to seek approval from anyone but her.

So I was determined Christmas 2013 wasn’t going to fill me with dread. This wasn’t going to be a terrible time.

This year, I decided to “do” Christmas.

The decorations were up in record time, I’ve tried some festive baking for the first time and I am determined to have a good Christmas in the company of the wonderful people I’m lucky enough to call my friends.

I even made it to the company Christmas party on Friday for the first time in God knows how long and I had a blast. The incredible friends I shared it with made it a very special evening.

And I’m off to visit more pals – some Diane’s, some mine – over the coming days. I will do my best to enjoy it all and I’m sure I’ll create memories to carry with me forever.

Of course, there’ll be quiet moments when I’m alone with Diane and a few tears will come. I’ll say what I have to say to her in private. I'll close my eyes and in my mind I’ll kiss her gently on the cheek and wish her a Merry Christmas from her adoring husband. That’s only to be expected. I miss her beyond words and wish she was beside me in person again.

But I know that can’t happen.

That’s why my Christmas prayer is not for her to be back, sitting opposite me in this room, sharing Christmas again with me in person. I already know the answer to that is "no".

No, my Christmas prayer is to you.

To you who are lucky enough to have yet to spend a family Christmas with someone as special as her missing. One Christmas yet to come - maybe not next year or the year after but certainly at some point – will be your first Christmas apart from someone you thought you couldn't live without.

So I pray you make the most of every precious second you have this week and all year round with your family, closest friends and neighbours.

I pray you promise from this day on never to be left wishing you had told them more often that you loved them.

I pray you decide to make sure you don't end up regretting that you hadn't made the effort to do more together, see each other more often, spend more time watching them be... well, just watch them be them.

And I pray the answer to this prayer is "yes".

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