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LIFE WITH CYNTHIA: Dates are not important, but memories are

In her weekly column, Cynthia Breadner discusses the importance of dates and the meanings we attach to them

I open my eyes and look out my window to the east. The sun is behind the clouds, yet the evidence of its rising is clear. The yellow, orange and red of its colour push through the cracks in the misty morning’s clouds. I realize it is Dec.26. It’s over for another year. Christmas Day has come and gone as just another day. I survived and have 364 days ahead to prepare for next year.  Christmas Day, when almost everything is closed, has passed and the bargain hunters are out and about for Boxing Day. Wallets are open once again ready to be picked clean. Credit cards are not yet exhausted from under the tree shopping.

Dec.25 for me was yet again a mix of fun and quiet time. In the third trimester of life, I have come to realize how Christmas is just another day if you let it be. It is a day I have struggled with over the years with the clichés and the religious struggles of society. Pinned around Hannukah and Yule Christmas has, over the years, come to measure more equally alongside in our pluralistic society. I remember as a child, the Jehovah's Witness children being separated when they stepped away from Christmas celebrations. We had little observance outside of Christianity that I remember. The incoming of a changing world has been challenging for a Christian nation. However, that is not my only face-off with the latter part of December. 

I remember as a young girl thinking Christmas was so special. I was reminded of those days the other day when the impatience of the grandchildren was evident on Christmas morn. We talked about how some households have all the presents open before breakfast! Being the youngest of six children, in the ’70s, there were years we had to wait for siblings to come home to celebrate, and that could take days. I learned to wait, and “Christmas” was when we had it … not calendar dependent. I also remember for years celebrating Christmas in mid-December at my childhood home so all of us could be free for others on Dec. 25. My kids went to their dad’s and my siblings had their plans. Christmas was about the gathering, not the date. It is one of the sorrows of my heart that as our parents moved on to their next adventure, we lost track of our yearly Christmas gathering. It has never been the same and it has nothing to do with a pandemic. 

Christmas Day is just another day for me. Any day can be what we make of it. It can be full of joy and blessings, and it can be filled with pain and sorrow. As I spend time with people who have had loved ones die, there are many days that stand out for them. As we suffer loss, culture and well-meaning friends add to the burden by bringing up how hard it is around Christmas. I bite my proverbial tongue because does anyone feel the death of a daughter, mother or grandmother would be any less painful at any other time of the year? Is it better my parents died in August, far before Christmas because I might be used to it by the time Santa comes down the chimney? August is my birthday month and my mother’s funeral was on my 50th birthday, yet I have never let it taint my birthday because my birthday is just another day to make memories. I could choose to remember every year on my birthday that my mother’s funeral was that day, or I can let it go and remember my mother fondly, the other 364 days of the year. 

We can choose to relive certain days over and over. Days take on value and hold a place in our hearts. A day can be an anchor or a helium balloon. It can bring a lift to your heart, or it can weigh you down when you attach a memory to it. It takes work to stay in sorrow and sadness. We are meant to move through and forward when in sorrow when we cannot let natural healing happen. As the sun pushes through the clouds, it is another day for meaning-making, and we choose the meaning we attach to it. We can grow through the challenges giving them their days and then letting them go while placing hope on the days to come. Placing hope on sorrow is like the lilt at the end of a sentence when we speak. A constant drop at the end of the day carries the essence of loss into the next. 

Any day is just another day for someone. The Jehovah's Witness children of my school youth only felt lack because of what they saw with other children and were made to feel they were missing out. Those who celebrate Hannukah pay little attention to Dec.25 and when others are observing a month of Ramadan, it may be just another 30 days that will include Easter for you. Days only have the value we place on them, and we can let go of that value just as easily. 

As the sun rises in the east on Dec. 26, I rejoice it is just another day to find joy in my life and put away yesterday’s laundry. The grandchildren still need to be loved, a death in the family continues to be mourned, the dog still needs to be walked, rent still needs to be paid. Each day is just that: another day; be it Dec. 25, 26, or July 14. 

Cynthia Breadner is a grief specialist and bereavement counsellor, a soul care worker and offers specialized care in Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy with special attention as a cognitive behavioural therapy practitioner and trauma incident resolution facilitator.  She volunteers at hospice, works as a LTC chaplain and is a death doula, assisting with end-of-life care for clients and family.  She is the mother part of the #DanCynAdventures duo and practices fitness, health and wellness.  She is available remotely by safe and secure video connections, if you have any questions contact her today!