Tag Archives: joy

A Time For Resolve

Today is the first day of 2015.  This is the time of year when resolutions are made, when intentions are set, when we start fresh.  Many of us are reflecting deeply on the past year as we look forward to a new year. We think about what we might have done differently, and we resolve to do better in the future.  We make commitments about exercising, dieting, drinking less alcohol or drinking none at all. We promise to save money, floss every day, be perfect recyclers.  We decide we’ll volunteer every week.  We vow to get more sleep and to be more mindful of our bodies.  In the days and weeks leading up to this first day of the year, we contemplate change and look forward to new beginnings, we plan our goals and compare ours with our friends’.  We make lists, we spend money on gym memberships, we join weight-loss programs, we buy exercise equipment, even our grocery shopping shifts in preparation for our new life, which begins today.

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In truth, our new life – a new day – a new year – begins every moment.  Our new life is now.  We are as good as we are at the moment, and honestly, that’s plenty good enough.  For me, when I am intent and determined to forcibly change something I am doing or some thing about myself I am not happy with, I know it won’t work.  I’ve tried enough times to know this.  Maybe, a few days or a few weeks will pass with success, but it won’t last.  I will fail, and then I will flog myself for my failure, and then I will flog myself even more because this is yet another failure to add to my pile.  When I am focusing on the failure pile, I somehow forget anything good I have done or accomplished.  I neglect to remember the simple goodness in my heart.  I start to believe I am unlovable.  So, now, I don’t commit to unrealistic resolutions.  I try to set my goals in the spirit of kindness toward myself rather than with the idea that I am not good enough and I need to make myself better.

This year, I want to work toward living in the moment, lamenting less about the past and worrying less about the future.  I want to gain a deeper sense of gratitude for what I have and for who I am.  My goal for this year is to be attentive, to listen, to be present.  When I pay closer attention to the world around me, I experience a greater joy.  If I am joyful and smiling, I am more apt to spread that joy to others.  My aim is to be kinder to myself and be less judgmental about my imperfections.  In this way, I find it easier to be committed and resolute about my goals and life in general.  I will keep it simple this year.  I hope to maintain some semblance of balance and peace — even when I feel waves crashing against me.  I will write, I will sew, I will create.  This is simple.  This is what I love.

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His Last Christmas

Billy was ten years old when he celebrated his last Christmas with us.  He was brought home from the hospital in an ambulance so that he could be with his family.  The driver knew what this trip was about.  He flashed the ambulance lights and gave an occasional siren whistle as he drove my little brother home.  How excited Billy must have been!  My parents had ordered a hospital bed and set it up in the dining room to ensure Billy’s visit was as comfortable and safe as possible.  My other brothers and I were filled with anticipation to have Billy home for Christmas, but we were also anxious.  We hadn’t spent much time with our brother recently, and we didn’t know what to expect.  Billy had spent the majority of the past year in the hospital; he had been diagnosed with lymphosarcoma, an acute form of leukemia.  My mother had taken him to see the doctor one day when she noticed some strange lumps on his shoulders, and she came home without him.  His prognosis was bleak.  There wasn’t a cure, and the disease was aggressive.

During earlier visits, Billy had been different from the brother we had known only a few months before.  He was bloated and glassy eyed, and he spent much of his time sleeping.  He couldn’t go out and play with us.  His hair had thinned, and one side of his face sagged because it was paralyzed.  For this Christmas visit, our parents warned us to control our wild behavior and roughhousing, to be careful not to knock into our brother and cause him to fall.  Billy was in pain.  He was fragile, sick and dying.  We were told it was his last Christmas with us, his last trip home,  but we were just too young to understand.  The magnitude of this information was beyond our comprehension.  Our excitement for the holiday season, for school vacation, Santa Claus and presents under the tree, was subdued by the mysterious melancholy and sadness that filled our home.  I can’t imagine the  helplessness my parents felt over those many months of watching their young son die.  I can’t imagine how it felt for them to know this Christmas was his last, how they possibly could have found even an ounce of holiday spirit.  They did all they could to celebrate– for us, for them, for Billy.

Billy

Over the thirteen months of his illness, Billy fought like a brave little warrior.  At one point as he neared the end of his life, he said he didn’t know it was so easy to lose a life.   Billy’s little body was simply giving out.  His doctors and my parents agreed that nothing more could be done.  It didn’t make sense to continue the barrage of medications he was taking; he was administered morphine instead to relieve the pain and help him through his last days.   Billy wasn’t expected to live much longer than a week.  I think he knew he was nearing his end.  Our parents wanted to make this a special time for him and for our family.  He was a feisty little boy with a big heart, and they wanted to bring him home.  Billy’s caregivers had grown to love him, and though they are trained to deal with disease and death every day, they were deeply saddened to witness his dying.  Nothing more could be done to save him.  I am grateful to those caregivers for devoting their lives to helping our family, to helping families like mine who suffer through the terminal illness and death of a loved one.  They give us strength and guidance, and they hold us when we grieve and mourn.

It has been forty-six years since Billy’s last Christmas.  Often, I ask myself why I still feel that gloomy little cloud over my head during the holiday season.  Billy’s death was so long ago, but no matter how hard I try to shake off the sadness, it’s still there.  For me, it’s more than grieving the anniversary of a loved-one’s death.  Of course, I mourn deeply the loss of my little brother.  He would be fifty-six years old now.  I miss having known him.  I wonder what he would be like, who he would have married, if he would have had children.  I wonder what he would have done for a living, if he would have loved music or the arts or hunting or flying.  There is something far more profound that I am saddened by, though.  My brother’s illness and death was the beginning of the eventual demise of my family.  My family did not survive this loss.  My parents relied heavily on alcohol to mask their pain, and they eventually divorced.  My older brother killed himself through extreme alcohol abuse and drug addiction; I believe he suffered survivor’s guilt.  I turned to religion and joined a religious cult, hiding from my family and from society for almost a decade.  My younger brother dangerously started down a wayward path, but luckily caught himself.  My younger sister, who was conceived a year after Billy died, was born into a shattered and broken family and grew up alone with a heartbroken mother.

I will never forget that Christmas Day.  My young parents did the best they could and tried hard to create a Merry Christmas for all of us.  My brothers and I romped and played with our new toys and  gifts, fighting and bickering as we normally did.  Billy was brave; he intuitively knew he was dying, yet his excitement and joy filled the air.  He couldn’t participate in most of our crazy antics, but he loved watching us.  We did somersaults and cartwheels in the living room, driving our parents crazy, and we sang and danced for Billy while he sat on the couch and laughed at our silliness.  He watched us with smiling, soulful eyes because he was so happy to be home with us.  My every Christmas is touched with memories of our last Christmas with Billy whose gift was his presence, his love, and his joy.  I write this in memory of my brave little brother.