Usually at this point in our service I try to offer you some thoughts from scripture or well-chosen literature that may or may not lead to some hope in the future.
Tonight, if you’ll indulge me, I would like to offer you some thoughts in the way of my personal reflection during the last month.
The month of November as many of you will know, is the time when traditionally in the Christian Church we remember all those who have died.
Naturally my thoughts over the last few weeks have gravitated to my mother who died some eight years ago.
Often when tragedy strikes we hear the words ‘Time Heals’. My reflection on the annoyance these words cause me – has made me realise, that time for me has been both a friend and an enemy.
It slowed enough so I could be with my mother when she took her last breath, and for this I’m grateful.
But eight years after her death, the void in my heart hasn’t healed; it’s still as big as the day she died.
Each year is another year without her physically. And, time, reflective of each passing calendar year, continuously reminds me of this.
Yes, I’ve been comforted with the belief that when she died, her distress ended.
The conviction that we’re spiritual beings living a physical existence – with a knowing that the spirit continues without the body has soothed me.
I am grateful for the woman she was, I am grateful for her ability to have those difficult conversations about her dying and subsequent death – and that on reflection has eased my grieving.
I am grateful for those lucid intimate moments we shared in the last days of her life that enabled us to be in the moment and finally to say goodbye to one another.
This spirit of gratitude has made me realize as nothing else would, that gratitude is the natural antidote to depression. The two can’t live side by side.
My intuition enables me to feel her presence through nature, through memories and reflection. I’ve developed ways of honouring her name.
My reflections have enabled me to realise how fortunate I was in the days before she died to have been able to communicate with her in an open and honest fashion, increasing my compassion for others suffering.
Time doesn’t heal; it provides the opportunity for us to learn to live with the enormity of the changed reality.
The reality of knowing our loved ones are no longer physically with us and never will be – is hard to swallow.
But, once this realization is fully processed with mind and spirit, and once we’ve accepted the world without them physically, then healing begins.
I’ve surrendered my life to the realization that time offers a bridge and once crossed; it is indicative of the choice to live, to feel joy again.
I know my mother would want me to live with joy instead of sadness. I’m sure your loved ones would want the same for you.
If you’re suffering loss, utilize time as the bridge to choosing life – and this may help release and honour the past by living your life more fully. This is a good way to honour our loved ones.
Christmas also marks the passage of time in our lives. It is one of the milestones we share with each other and it generally represents time spent with family.
Popular belief suggests that Christmas is the time to be happy. The reality of course is that Christmas is a bittersweet time for many of us.
On the one hand there is the joy of Christmas, especially if we have little ones in the family.
On the other it serves to remind us of those we have loved and lost.
For many people, this is the hardest part of grieving, when we miss our loved ones who have died – even more than usual.
How do we celebrate togetherness when there is none? When we have lost someone special, it often feels that we have lost the ability to celebrate.
You can and you will get through the Christmas holidays. Rather than avoiding the feelings of grief, lean into them.
It is not the grief we want to avoid, it is the pain.
Grief is the way out of the pain. Grief is our internal feelings and the mourning that ensues – is our external expressions of our grief.
Far be it for me to advise you how to manage your Christmas, however;
There are a number of ways we can incorporate our loved one and our loss into Christmas.
- Have a prayer before Christmas dinner, about your loved one
- Light a candle symbolizing your loved one
- Use a favourite recipe that your loved one passed down (Granny’s Christmas pudding)
- Stroke the elephant in the room … by sharing a favourite story about your loved one.
There’s a power in story telling that can transform our lives.
The stories told from generation to generation about living life, carry this power as they are passed on.
The life story of each person is a reflection of another’s life story. In some mysterious, amazing way our stories and our lives are all tied together.
Reflecting on the life story of another can shed light on our own story. It can help us discover what it means to hope … what it means to face the difficulties of life … and importantly … what it means to enjoy the moments that most of us don’t even notice.
Story is a way of reconnecting with the memories … the smiles and the spirit of those we honour and love.
If Christmas is difficult for you might try having a Plan A and a Plan B;
Plan A is you go to the Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends. If it doesn’t feel right, have your plan B ready.
Plan B may be watching a movie you both liked or going to a special place you went to together.
Many people find that when they have Plan B in place, just knowing it is there is enough.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to handle Christmas in grief. You have to decide what is right for you and do it.
It is very natural to feel you may never enjoy Christmas again. It will certainly never be the same as it once was.
However, in time, most people are able to find meaning again in the traditions as a new form of Christmas Spirit grows inside of them.
Even without grief, our friends and relatives often think they know how our Christmas should look, what “the family” should and shouldn’t do.
- Be gentle with yourself and protect yourself
- Don’t do more than you want, and don’t do anything that isn’t comfortable for you
- Do allow time for your thoughts and feelings
- Do allow others to help. We all need help at certain times in our lives.
Please, pay extra attention to the children. Children are too often the forgotten grievers.
Whatever you experience, just remember that sadness is allowed because death, as they say, doesn’t take a holiday.
Tonight, we gather here to especially remember our loved ones, family and friends, many of whom have died.
Many present here have experienced, or indeed will still be experiencing, the emotions of grief but we also know – or hope – that there is a light at the end of the darkness we’ve known.
The lights of our trees – here at the Hospice and across other towns and villages in Lanarkshire – can act as such powerful images of hope and comfort.
They are a symbol of our connectedness with one another and with those we honour, remember and love.
We remember so many individuals through these lights. Each of us knows what those lights signify and whom we remember through them.
Speaking personally, my faith in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus was kindled by and nurtured by mother.
It is that same faith that gives me hope in the firm knowledge that one day when my journey through death comes about, she will be there to embrace me once again.
As we gaze on the light of our tree, let’s each reflect on the stories of our loved ones; connecting with them, drawing hope and inspiration from their story.
Earlier we heard the words of Jesus in the story from the gospel of St John
“I am the light of the world;
Anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark;
They will have in them light for life”.
May that same Jesus also light up our lives through the lights that we have placed here on our tree.
Let the light of hope help us remember the ones we love who have died, and let us pray that they will be forever with the one who gives light and hope to us.
As the lights shine once again on our tree, we take time to honour and remember our loved ones.
Head of Pastoral Care & Education
1st December 2019