(Not) Home for the holidays

“So, any funs plans for Christmas?”

It’s a question I’m tired of answering, but equally guilty of asking.

The majority of us will take time off, gorge on food, spend time with family and friends, travel or get some much needed R&R.

For the rest, they’ll kiss their families goodbye and head into work.

Retail stores will close. Fitness centres will be dark. The malls will be empty. But the doors of our hospitals, after-hours clinics and emergency facilities and services will stay open for business.

Our first responders are on the clock 24/7. They give us their holidays, their kids’ birthdays, anniversaries, and weekends so our communities stay safe, our services go uninterrupted and we have access to the care we need regardless of the date on the calendar.

On Christmas morning as you open presents with family, there will inevitably be a nurse coming in for work, having snuck out of her house before her kids woke up to make it time for her shift. She’ll miss the joy of seeing her boys open presents and her mom’s world-famous turkey stuffing.

She’ll relieve one of her colleagues who spent all evening consoling family members whose loved one unexpectedly passed away – one of his patients. He’ll fight exhaustion and attempt to focus on his own family instead of the one he empathizes with who is grieving the member they lost.

While we bask in the post-present glow, sipping a Bailey’s and hot chocolate in our PJs, our paramedics will miss the joy of catching up with family while they tend to an accident scene that will change the course of another family’s life forever.

As we drive to our Christmas dinner, a police car will scream by on route to a call. It’s the officer’s first Christmas as a father but he’ll miss making memories with his baby because he’s made the choice to serve the people of his community, the community he takes so much pride in.

We’ll sit down to a full feast surrounded by people we love just as an on-call physician excuses herself from her own family traditions to assist with a patient who’s taken a turn for the worse.

These examples are only a few of those who give us so much not just over the holidays, but every day of the year. There are so many others who are equally pivotal to ensuring our services run smoothly: the housekeeping and food services at local hospitals, dispatch, organ donation coordination teams – the list goes on.

For these folks, they’re not raking in millions or getting special acknowledgement because they’re working on a holiday – they’re doing it because they genuinely want to help.

Most of us won’t need emergency health-care services, the help of firefighters or protection of police, to name a few, over the holidays. But for those who do, they will be there.

Please take a moment to think of those who give up time with their loved ones so we can continue to create positive, healthy memories with our own families on Christmas – and every day of the year.

Merry Christmas to all!

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What I really want for Christmas

Lately, I’ve been caught up in the whole commercialized Christmas, which has been a big change for me. It’s been a few years since I’ve actually felt like celebrating the holiday. It all started four years ago when my Dad passed. Since then, I’d been unable to get out of my Grinch-like funk.
 
The first year he was gone, the Christmas tree I had was taken down before December 25 even arrived. I felt so guilty celebrating when my Dad would never see another Christmas again. 
 
The following year, I convinced myself I didn’t need a tree and the year after that, I only put one up because my ex and I were hosting my family for dinner and my sister insisted we have a tree.
 
This year I allowed myself to get caught up in the magic I once believed actually existed around Christmas – the lights, the big, beautiful tree, the ornaments, the presents, the Christmas outings – I even caught myself singing that hideously addictive yet horribly annoying All I want for Christmas song. Thanks Mariah.

For the first time in a long time, it almost felt like it had growing up. Magical. Perfect.

Then today when I heard Joe Cocker died, all of the Christmas excitement and joy I felt immediately dissipated and I missed my Dad. A lot.
 
The grief I’d managed to bury for so long came back like a tsunami and I was completely overwhelmed, so much so that I actually felt like a beach ball had inflated in my throat and for a few moments, I couldn’t catch my breath. Tears spilled down my cheeks and I felt as though I were literally drowning.
 
My Dad always told me how when I was a baby and couldn’t sleep, he’d play ‘our’ song, sing it softly to me and rock me back to sleep. “Worked like a charm every time, babes.” I can almost hear him saying it.
 
My handsome Dad as a young police cadet at Christmas.

Even up until he passed when I was 24, he’d occasionally call me and leave me a voicemail when he’d heard ‘you are so beautiful’ on the radio. His voice would be cracking without fail every time, as though he had just relived a precious memory. I suppose in many ways, he had.

 
I’ve not listened to the song for years – I just couldn’t. By the time the first few piano notes were played, I’d be hysterical, frantically trying to catch my breath and all the while wishing my Dad were singing it to me. I know he never will again.
 
Foolishly, I looked the song up on YouTube after I read the news, which only made me more emotional. The song still had the same effect – it made me sad (read: I bawled my frickin’ eyes out) – I just miss my Dad terribly.

The Christmas joy I finally found has been weighted down by the fact that I know the one thing I want more than anything, I will never again have – time with my Dad.
 
That’s not to say I’m not grateful or appreciative for what’s to come this Christmas – I’m in a great relationship, I’m living in a city I’ve always dreamed of being in and I’m on the ice again. I have my health, I have my family, I have my friends. But all of that does little to comfort me today.  

It’s been four years yet it feels like yesterday in many ways – the idiotic move of playing that song reaffirmed to me I’m far from “over” losing him.
 
While I’d give anything and everything under my tree to have just a few more moments with him, I know he’d be upset with me for not appreciating what I do have, even if he can’t physically be here to share it with me.
 
So, I’ll try my best to think positively, be grateful and take comfort in the memories we did have – they’re more valuable to me than anything on my wish list. 

And, if I need to cry, I’ll give myself permission to. It’s not all bad, I suppose – my cheeks get a little rosy after a good sob fest and who couldn’t use a little extra colour this gloomy time of year?
How do you cope with grief during the holidays?