Advent (noun): The first season of the Church year, leading up to Christmas
For the woman who has a whole website for her words, I’ve been left speechless this December – not just because of the bad news, but because of the extraordinary good deeds.
I dislike saying that this has been the worst year of my life, because my dad died when I was younger and I don’t want to compare or detract from that. But my dad died in a November and Summer died in March, so it’s probably ok to say that this has been the worst calendar year of my life. This December however has been particularly special, this December – despite it all – has had a good moment, a mindful moment of joy, in every day.
Usually, I run an annual Christmas advent challenge at work; every day I would send a little Christmas puzzle or challenge out to my team (around 30 people) and they would compete to win the advent chocolate. Every year I’m stunned by the people who participate because we’re all pretty senior and the games are so silly – so many people who I wouldn’t expect to, come out to join the fun and games. With everything Christmas themed, past challenges have included a team spot the difference, funniest captions for photos, writing limericks, anagrams, word searches, timed games of boggle, literature quizzes etc. One year, I even emailed the daily challenges from Mauritius (we had just miscarried with BoC and wanted to get away in the run up to Christmas). Due to past form, I’ve unsurprisingly gained the reputation of someone who loves Christmas, organised fun and am always the one who enforces the ‘white elephant’ secret Santa.
This year I didn’t run the team advent challenge, firstly because we’re not in the office, but mainly because my heart’s just not been in Christmas this year. Last year, I was pregnant with Summer. This year, I haven’t been able to bring myself to put up a tree, as I had already pictured doing it, listening to Christmas music, with a baby in a bouncer watching me. I don’t think I can ever put a tree up until I have a baby now. So it wasn’t the usual advent traditions that brought me joy, but a different and entirely unexpected one instead.
I smiled when typing the definition for today’s blog: advent. The meaning starting with “the first season”, making me immediately think of our little season, Summer. This morning James exclaimed “I’ve just seen a robin!” and I sent him a link to say how many people believe that seeing a robin is a symbol that a deceased loved one is visiting: “loved ones are near when robins appear”. Later on, I went downstairs and (despite hours of cleaning and dusting yesterday!) I found a single feather (also considered a sign from the deceased) lying in wait for me, by the fireplace, where I was putting out our presents for tomorrow. Her presence has been felt today.
That’s what has been fundamentally important this year (and a particularly important reminder with Christmas tomorrow): presence not presents. People coming to sit with us in our grief – physically, on the phone, via Facetime, via whatsapps, little notes, comments on this blog and DMs.
Some people however have done both, which has been so incredibly thoughtful. One friend in particular I’d like to mention today. V gave me the gift of her time, week in, week out. She sat with me over FaceTime every single week, for months and months. Whenever I found it lonely and tough during a weekday, I would call V in tears and she would listen. REALLY listen. And I know that because, this December, she did something incredibly special, V put all those words into action and sent me a beautiful advent parcel.
It wasn’t a gift a day to say “Merry Christmas!” it was a series of very baby-loss aware gestures that said “I know you’re dreading December, so I’m here to try to make it better”. And do you know what? She did. Her presents enabled me to feel her presence. The advent calendar has undoubtedly been my favourite moment of every single December day. So how do you say “thank you” for the nicest gift you’ve EVER received? I haven’t figured it out yet, so answers on a postcard, please. But for now, I will do it by highlighting her unbelievable kindness, via this blog. I love you V, everyone should have a friend like you. Thank you for putting the “happy” into my dreaded Christmas days (and thank you for permission for sharing your beautiful notes and gifts).
To everyone else reading, I hope you have a lovely little Christmas. Here’s hoping that 2021 is a lot brighter for us all xx
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