Christmas, 2014

I didn’t quite know what to do with Christmas 2014. Miracles have transpired this year, though also much tragedy. The answer came in the form of the beautiful Donna. She delivered boxes, which filled up my garage on the 23rd. My daughter and I had a ball sorting through them, making bags to give to Street Pax, putting together personalised hampers and two carloads of goods for The Exodus Foundation. It gave me a focus, in the midst of great sadness. My little girl was thrilled to be an elf.
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We went to St Mary’s Cathedral, and witnessed the spectacular light show.
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The atmosphere was reflective, given current events. Families celebrated together and children made new friends, unafraid and full of excitement.

She dipped her toes in the fountain.
She dipped her toes in the fountain.

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As my daughter busied herself with decorating cookies for Santa, my thoughts turned to Serena on Christmas Eve, and the precious mother and young sons she had left behind. I would have called in on her, but she wasn’t at home. I needed to go for a drive, and found myself at Martin Place, where the Salvation Army were having their carols.

Martin Place
Martin Place

The atmosphere was defiant. There were more people than usual. We all needed to be there. I met a lady who asked for directions. She was in her sixties and told me that she had invited her friend to accompany her, but she was too frightened to come. “I am glad you weren’t,” I smiled, squeezing her hand. We watched as the Salvation Army performed with their timbrels.
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Afterward, we walked up Martin Place, past the Lindt café. A food van was parked, and the area was teeming with the homeless and those on the periphery. They smiled at my little girl, and we stopped to talk with them. Tears sprang in my eyes. So many people. The hidden and forgotten in our society. Thank God for those whom refuse to discard them. They are people, as worthy as you or I. The true meaning of Christmas was found here. My daughter asked questions, and it made her more determined to do good in this world. I have been in refuges, and know of many who are but a few pay slips away from here. In the midst of it all, we managed to visit a few friends.

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Love is what its all about.

I received some heartfelt gifts.
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This beautiful print from Luke Clenton Photography. He is incredibly talented, a friend’s teenage son.

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I cried when I received this, a montage of Serena and I. Oh, how I miss you.

Christmas Day, we went to Ashfield Uniting Church, and heard a profound sermon from Reverend Bill Crews. I opened a bottle of champagne at home when a friend called in, then we spent Christmas night with a dear family.

I also spent time with this bloke.

I also spent time with this bloke.

A turbulent Christmas was salvaged by love. Overtures of kindness from strangers in Martin Place, through  to cuddles and cards from friends. Foster kids living on my street gifted my daughter a gorgeous teddy bear. There is still light, and there is certainly still hope. We just have to build upon it.

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Wherever you are in the world, and however you celebrated this season, we are all connected. As we reflect on 2014, and prepare for the new 2015, let’s keep the kindness up, not forgetting ourselves. We have to be replenished before pouring benevolence onto this suffering world.

Christmas Greetings.

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I just reached for my phone, to text Serena. I am going to go see Christmas  lights with my little girl, and Serena would usually come too. I had to remember that she is gone, past the clouds, blistering sun and brooding moon. I remain. What to do with the rest of my life? How about I learn from Serena? Her curiosity was outstanding, and led to her taking snippets from this resource and that. She had a tower of clipping’s by life’s end. I promise to be adventurous and travel far and wide. Not to discover myself, but rather to uncover more. You taught me that.

This Christmas is both challenging and miraculous. A friend of mine who works in welfare brought me this Christmas cake she had baked.

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I took it down to the Exodus Foundation, where I am sure it will be enjoyed. Kindness takes your breath away. It is unprompted and seeks nothing of itself. The people of Sydney are kind. Strangers were handing out tissues yesterday at Martin Place. Nobody was jostling in the long line of people wanting (and needing), to pay their respects. We cried and held each other.

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We then took the children to a department store, where they discovered cheeky cards in the stationery aisle.

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Children laugh spontaneously. Adults laugh in spite of it all.

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Admiring window displays and decorations… We partake in this annual ritual to syphon colour out of a kaleidoscope, taking those we have loved and lost along for the journey. I have made a pledge with a friend of mine to partake in more whimsical gatherings in the new year. “The world needs more whimsy; we all do,” she stated. Being silly for the hell of it. Why not? Fond memories to look back on.

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This year has been tragic, strange and everything in between. Like all years. We have to leave some of our beloved’s in 2014, for  time on this earth has frozen for them. I will always remember this Christmas as the year Sydney stood strong. We were comforted by strangers and the sweet smell of flowers drifted through the city. I was personally grieving one of my best friends, comforted by her strong mother, and my daughter. My daughter; brave and empathic and brimming with love. I will remember this Christmas as the time when another dear friend saved her own life. She had no symptoms, but insisted on a mammogram. She was $30 out-of-pocket after her rebate. “Best $30 I ever spent,” she said, after they discovered she had breast cancer. She had surgery last week, and is recovering, her plucky sense of humour intact. Her messages on the net have been guided by some pretty powerful painkillers, her spirit delighting us all. I let go of a lot of silly expectations I had of myself. The hundreds of cards I expected to write, the numerous gifts I expected to post… My loved ones understood. As they showed compassion to a harried mum who is grieving, I decided to do thus. They still love me, and they know I love them. You can let extraneous stuff go this Christmas and get back to basics. You will still be loved. My friends, there is pain and pleasure in abundance, and certainly throughout this Christmas. They sit ill at ease with one another, though they manage to mingle. May your Christmas be peaceful. Perhaps joy is too much to expect, but I pray it comes your way. Many people have come to my door, mourning the loss of their marriage, career or health. Christmas brings up a lot, especially if your life can’t compete with the commercials. I haven’t met anyone whose life can, no matter how it looks on Facebook. We are all just clumsily doing this thing called life together. Hold on until the new year. I have a feeling that 2015 will burn bright. xxx

 

 

 

Heaviness and Light.

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This Christmas season feels so heavy. I am listening to a passing couple arguing outside my home. Dear friends have been ill, discovered that they have had cancer, have had their worlds irretrievably alter in various forms. Dear friends have passed away… One friend was a hundred when he shuffled back to whence he came. Another was forty. I am desperate to make a difference to these dear ones. To let them know how much I love them. When you accept help or an overture from a friend, you are giving them a gift. You are taking the burden of feeling powerless from their shoulders. They feel as if they can do something, anything, to assist you at your darkest time. I know it is hard to accept an offer of help. I know.

 

My beautiful city is in mourning. Darkness descended on Sydney Monday morning. Strangers are saying prayers and laying flowers, writing in condolence books and reaching out to one another. We need to do something, anything. When a friend bakes for your family, minds your children, cleans your home and runs errands, you are giving them a gift. They feel needed, and their children get to witness what a community actually means. When I presented the tributes at Serena’s funeral, I felt as though I was doing something in the midst of the paralysing anguish. I was powerless to stop her leaving this earth, but I could at least ensure she had a beautiful farewell. We need to do something, anything. In this spirit, please ask for help if and when you need it. Take the hand being offered to you. This Christmas, we need magnanimous gestures more than ever. This is the spirit of Christmas.