Should We Have A Happy Christmas?

Last night, I tried once again to write my Annual Christmas Newsletter but was getting stuck. After the last few weeks, I‘m finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit. Australia has been in mourning following the accidental death of cricketer Phillip Hughes. Since then the shock, outrage and sadness has only got worse…so much worse! Knowing that these families are grieving, it is hard to feel positive about this Christmas or write about what our family has been doing this year, as though it’s all just business as usual. That said, I was having chemo last Christmas and every Christmas we have together as a family is very, very precious.

 

My grandfather reading his Christmas mail 2007. When he was a Pastor in Wollongong back in the 1950s in a congregation with mostly "New Australians", everbody would sing Silent Night in their own language together.

My grandfather reading his Christmas mail 2007, aged 93. When he was a Pastor in Wollongong back in the 1950s in a congregation with mostly “New Australians”, everybody would sing Silent Night in their own language together.

The Annual Christmas Newsletter is a tradition started by my grandfather. He quite literally belted out his newsletter on the keys of his pre-historic typewriter well after the days of computers. I’ve even seen newer contraptions preserved in modern museums. He was a Church Pastor and knew a lot of people and could have used a mail house to get his Christmas newsletter out.  Christmas was such a special time for him. Not just because it honored Jesus’ birth but because it brought Christians and families together. He loved nothing more than the annual Christmas Tree service on Christmas Eve where the children dressed up as angels and shepherds. If you’d been good at Sunday School, you might just be lucky and get the role of Mary or Joseph. That is, instead of being cast as the donkey!!

The kids dressed as angels for the Christmas Eve Service, 2008.

The kids dressed as angels for the Christmas Eve Service, 2008 aged 2 and 4.

However, I was not only struggling due to the usual writer’s block. I am still absolutely shell-shocked by recent events.

You know what I’m talking about.

I still haven’t started my newsletter and what I started writing has instead become this post. Quite unintentionally, it has ended up with two contrasting but interwoven stories. The words look at what’s happened as I guess I’m still trying to make sense of it all. The photos of our family tell a different story. They show those precious Christmas moments we all treasure and they really brought it home what these families have lost. Going through our many many Christmas photos  has also helped me appreciate our kids a lot more and what we have. That we shoud never take that for granted. Never ever!

Phillip Hughes’ death stopped the nation. That now seems a very long time ago in what I’m now calling “the Age of Innocence” before the events of last week. How a cricket ball could by-pass the helmet and hit him smack in the neck and kill such a fit and healthy young sportsman in the prime of life was beyond comprehension. Naturally, we support bowler Sean Abbott and the accident was clearly not his fault. It was one of those freakish things you can’t explain.

As I watched “Hughesie’s” funeral on TV, I heard his brother talk about the endless hours he spent bowling to his little bro who always insisted on batting first and took days and days to get out. Being the youngest, it was his sister’s job to fetch the balls. After hearing all those little anecdotes, we felt like we knew the cricketer in the green baggy cap with the enormous smile and such a joie de vivre. We felt shattered for his family and his cricketing family as well and we thought about his upcoming birthday and, of course, Christmas !!

However, last week’s dreadful siege in Martin Place’s much loved Lindt Café was in another league of shocked disbelief entirely. Of course, this tragedy wasn’t some statistically freakish accident. It was pure evil in action and it happened in our Sydney.

At any other time, any chocoholic would have been ecstatic to be locked up in the Lindt Cafe overnight and the contrast between chocolate heaven and the absolute hell that went on in there, is incomprehensible. I’ve never been there but so many friends have such special memories of that café. It is an indulgent treat. As the gunman forced the hostages up against the windows and we saw their hands, the window frames were decorated with “Merry Christmas” in fancy script. Again, this juxtaposition was yet another cruel irony. The siege ended on Tuesday 16th December with the deaths of Tori Johnson , the Manager of the Lindt Café and Katrina Dawson, Barrister and mother of three who had a love of hot chocolate.

An utter tragedy!!

You wouldn’t think it could get much worse, even though you know it does.

Only a day later, seven heavily armed Taliban gunmen scaled an outer wall of the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan and began shooting indiscriminately. 132 children and nine school staff were killed in what has been the deadliest ever attack by the Taliban in Pakistan. As the Economist stated: “It takes something unusually vile for the world to pay much attention to a terrorist outrage in Pakistan”[1].

I doubt any of us can even name one of the children killed in that attack. Personally, beyond knowing it had happened, I didn’t really know many of the details myself. I have been immersed in the aftermath of the Lindt Cafe Siege. It wasn’t that I didn’t care but once again it was over there and I was still shell shocked by what had happened here. I think they’ve termed this “sympathy fatigue”. All the same, these kids are just like yours and mine. They no doubt also liked to play cricket. Perhaps, they eveh put their cricket bats out the front of their homes out of respect to cricketer Phillip Hughes just like kids all around Australia…not knowing the horror which lay ahead.

Yet, around the world, people know Phillip Hughes, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson by name. Sir Elton John paused during a concert to honour Hughes and Martin Place is bursting and overflowing with floral tributes to these hero hostages who lost their lives protecting others.

Those children in Pakistan are just as precious!!

Mister pushing his little sister along George Street, Sydney 2008.

Christmas Shopping- Mister pushing his little sister along George Street, Sydney 2008

While it’s tempting to switch off and feel that the Pakistan massacre is just too horrific. Too dreadful. Can we afford to cover our eyes, our ears and simply switch off our TVs and somehow get back to Christmas 2014? Get back to wrapping presents, decorating trees, baking, eating too much chocolate, too much of everything including a few stiff drinks…especially after last week?

No matter who you are, we all have our own problems. While there are quite evidently a lot of people worse off out there, you also need to deal with your own stuff too. No one else is going to do it for you!! Perhaps, you just  haven’t got anything left to think about someone someplace else.

 

You also might just want to enjoy Christmas and honour the real meaning of Christmas…Christ’s birth and that God the Father sent him down to earth to save mankind from themselves. Save the lost. After this week, you’d think that Jesus might think it’s time to come back. How could there be so much hate and violence on our pretty blue planet which ironically looks so peaceful from space? I don’t know. Somehow, we need to start turning the tide around but how?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke.

But what can we do?

Thousands have left flowers in Martin Place. You can send Christmas cards to Katrina Dawson’s kids. We can also make a start by living by the Golden Rule and treating others as we would like to be treated . We could perhaps even develop the empathy and compassion to consider how others would like to be treated as well. How many of us have people we don’t speak to or even worse spew out abuse at each other? If we can not show love, forgiveness and compassion in our own personal relationships, how can we possibly change our world? While we might not have physically murdered anyone, who have we damaged through our words or our deeds…or indeed, possibly even broken beyond repair? There is so much pain and heartache in our world and maybe we just need to listen to a troubled soul and that could be all it takes to make a difference and show love…that proverbial cup of tea.

Yet, even listening is not as easy as we think.

Mister at the Beach Aged 9 Months- Christmas 2004.

Mister at the Beach Aged 9 Months- Christmas 2004.

Just when we thought that it couldn’t get much worse, news came through from Queensland (Australia) that a mother has been charged with murdering 7 of her children as well as her niece. That’s eight children senselessly killed, seven by their own mother. This mother has at least one other child still living who has to live with that loss. He is just a young man and I don’t know how he’ll get through this atrocity. Apparently, these children had more than one Dad and these fathers have had their hearts ripped out as well. Why? Why does a mother kill her own children when your very instinct is to defend your children, even to the death?!! We’ve all had bad days with our kids but to do that…it’s incomprehensible. I am left numb. We have all been left numb.

Now, the fields of floral tributes are growing in Cairns as well. Too much tragic, needless heartache.

With the gravity of recent events, I haven’t heard any mention of the families who lost loved ones in the equally horrific shooting down of Flight MH17. It is their first Christmas without their loved ones. But given recent events, it’s like revisiting that horror is all too much. Yet, I still care. I haven’t forgotten.

MIss with her doll's house. We had to qwrap it up in a big white sheet to wrap it up and tied tinsel around it.

Miss with her doll’s house. We had to wrap it up in a big white sheet to wrap it up and tied tinsel around it.

 

Our daughter's first Christmas 2006 aged 10 months.

Our daughter’s first Christmas 2006 aged 10 months.

Mister and the old big red fella Christmas 2014

Mister and the old big red fella Christmas 2014

 

So after all of this, how are the rest of us supposed to have a Happy Christmas? Oh yes. I’m just swinging from the chandeliers in my Mrs Claus suit drinking champagne, even with my broken foot in its boot.

I don’t think so.

Yet, Christmas Day is too important for our family to write off or turn into a funeral. Life is precious and nobody knows what lies around the corner. Despite my many health scares, I’m still standing but none of us can take things for granted.

As a friend of mine who works in Martin Place has said: Every day is a gift.

We need to make sure we use that gift wisely. For me that includes being informed about these shocking events but also trying to be a counterforce for good. Right now, I really feel like marching down George Street (Sydney’s main street) wearing a huge heart suit to reinforce the importance of love. That love can triumph over evil. I’d probably look like an idiot and get locked up for disturbing the peace but I want people to remember that there is love and goodness in this world, even when we see the very worst of humanity flashed across our TV screens and even in our own city. We have to fight for goodness and for most of us, it will be in the little things. Baking a cake for a friend. Driving your friend’s kids home from school. Not walking into someone with a walking stick when you’re running desperately for that train. Keeping your cool with the kids when they’ve razzed you up for the hundredth time.

 

Showing off my new zebra PJs from Victoria's Secret beside the Christmas Tree in 2006. Lucky I didn't go skiing on all that wrapping paper!

Showing off my new zebra PJs from Victoria’s Secret beside the Christmas Tree in 2006. Lucky I didn’t go skiing on all that wrapping paper!

Mummy & Miss Christmas 2006

Mummy & Miss Christmas 2006. She is 10 months old and still crawling.

Mister & I with Santa at the Pearl Beach, Playgroup 2008.

Mister & I with Santa at the Pearl Beach, Playgroup 2008.

 

 

 

 

These random acts of kindness aren’t going to win you any awards and you won’t see your name up in lights but there is the personal satisfaction of a life well lived and having integrity and character…values that desperately need to come back into fashion.

That said, something tells me that the word Kardashian has more weight.

Somehow, you and I need to be the change.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller

I have pretty much decided that from tomorrow, my blog will return to “normal viewing”. That it is time to celebrate and enjoy Christmas 2014 and that is not the crime. That said, for all of you who are grieving this Christmas, I send you my love!

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

We've all got to start somewhere. Miss aged 1 2007.

We’ve all got to learn the Golden Rule sometime. Miss almost aged 2- Christmas 2007. The next photo showed Mister with the doll..She must have been told to share.

Who hasn't bought their little man a superman suit? Christmas 2008. Mister aged 4 and Miss aged 2.

Who hasn’t bought their little man a superman suit?
Christmas 2008. Mister aged 4 and Miss aged 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21636746-attack-sign-militants-are-under-pressure-pakistans-leaders-must-unite

12 thoughts on “Should We Have A Happy Christmas?

  1. maxwellthedog

    You pose questions none of us can answer. Questions no one has ever been able to answer. The struggle is as always not to let the bad overwhelm the good and I guess we each individually find our way through that. Here’s a tiny thing I find uplifting:

    Po la`i e, po kamaha`o,
    Maluhia, malamalama
    Ka makuahine aloha e
    Me ke keiki hemolele e
    Moe me ka maluhia lani
    Moe me ka maluhia lani

    That’s the first few lines of Silent Night in Hawaiian. Now, don’t laugh but for reasons I don’t savvy, the Hawaiian version of this Christmas song/hymn touches and uplifts more than the English or other languages, as least for me. Here’s the song sung in Hawaiian. Maybe it will raise your spirits and imbue hope in this precious season.

  2. roweeee Post author

    Hi Tom,
    Thank you so much for your very thoughtful reply. Sometimes, I forget these questions have no answers and are the same questions that have been perplexing humanity since the dawn of time. However, even though we are seemingly banging our heads on perpetual brick walls, sometimes we do get answers.
    I don’t know whether you have read “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom? Morrie dies from ALS which actually has very similar symptoms until it really progresses to the muscle disease I have. I found solace in Morrie and I ended up writing him a letter where I talked about why I had been given 2 life-threatening medical conditions before I’d even turned forty. It was a bit freaky at the time because through writing that letter, I actually received a reply. I’m not saying that came from Morrie’s ghost or anything like that but like Morrie, I had been writing a lot of aphorisms and life lessons and have really been wanting to help other people. Right from go, my intention has been to do motivational speaking and write books. I have actually written quite a lot. I just need to get it sorted and send it off. Much of it, I also need to just sit down and write, write, write.
    Anyway, the answer I received was that while Morrie had received all that wisdom and died, I was still around to do something with it and encourage people who are doing it tough.
    So sometimes we do get some kind of answer.
    Thank you so much for sharing the Hawaiian version of Silent Night. I agree with you that it is inspirationally beautiful. Sometimes, in trying to analyse why something is beautiful or spiritual it can lose its essence but for me, I think the guitar/ ukelele used was so much softer and spiritual than a piano and perhaps the Hawaiin culture is more soothing than your traditional Anglo Saxon linear/logic thing.
    Ran into a friend down at the shops whose son was playing violin. Good that he was out there and no doubt he was earning money for being cute but…!!!! I wanted my daughter who somewhat plays violin to hear him play and be inspired. I could tell she was not impressed. She is quite the perfectionist which is why she has struggled to really progress with her playing.
    I’m going to forward your silent night to a friend who used to live in Hawaii to wish him a Happy Christmas.
    xx Ro

  3. carlpeters

    Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. Such an easy sentence but extremely difficult to carry out! Your post has reminded me of why I try this every day, even when you get those strange, odd and doe like stares back at you from people that just don’t get it. You are right too, let’s all live in memory of the unfortunates, because that is what keeps their memories alive. Merry Xmas to you and your family/friends and peace & goodwill to all!!!

  4. roweeee Post author

    Thank you very much Carl. I had a double fail today when I let myself get worked up as my mother was talking about some stuff with my brother. I love my brother dearly but who hasn’t got issues with their siblings and it’s usually someone well intentioned like Mum who raises that issue that sends grenades flying all directions. I guess when we screw up, which despite our best intentions will be far too often, all we can do is apologise and try not to let things get under our skin again. Note to self: count to 10 next time and take deep breathes before reacting.
    My son and I are good at talking to strangers and we go to an animal park fairly often and the kids have always been very comfortable there and can almost recite the animal talks. On the same day when our son was about 6 I had one person compliment me on his beautiful open, friendly nature and another talk to me about a boy who just started talking to her and she really found it a bit odd. Being an extrovert myself, I have great difficulty staying inside my own skin and some people really do have trouble with that. I live a bit out of Sydney and people here are very friendly and the dog walkers usually say hello to each other. I know most of the local shop owners. The good shop people in Sydney do much the same but I do sense a degree of relative frostiness and also the busyness that gets in the way of having that personal touch.
    I love cooking and I tend to write little stories next to a recipe about when we had and what happened etc. I started doing that about 5-6 years ago partly because I was so unwell and I wanted my kids to have those priceless little anecdotes which parents store up in their heads. After doing things like that for my kids for so long I am very mindful of what Katrina Dawson’s kids are going through and they had no warning. No time for them to focus on each other or for her to leave them a last special message or gift.
    We just can’t switch off from other people’s bad luck but somehow we need to find a way to process it all without being immobilised for long.
    Wishing you and yours a Merry and safe Christmas and like you said, peace and good will to all!

  5. I- read

    My simple prayer along with yours is ”let there be light”, the darkness I see now in our world is becoming thick, but we need the light of love, support, care, and meekness to chase it away.. I pray the family of the victims as well as the victims. God be with us.

  6. Carol Balawyder

    Your post was very touching, especially when you mentioned that none of us could put a name on the children who died in the Pakistan school massacre. I recently responded to a comment you made on one of my posts, wishing you a joyous Christmas but after reading your post I find it more appropriate to wish you and your loved one a loving and peaceful Christmas.

  7. Lily Lau

    This post was so beautiful, made me reflect so much… thanks for sharing it with us, for real. I appreciate the lesson I learned today here 🙂

  8. roweeee Post author

    Lily, thank you so much for your beautiful, encouraging sentiments. I haven’t been getting out much lately and so it’s been very consoling to share this terrible tragedy with the blogging community. So many of us are trying to make the world a better place, asking questions and strugging like the rest of the world to find the answers. Wishing you a peace-filled, loving Christmas and better things for the New Year xx Rowena

  9. roweeee Post author

    Hi Carol,
    Thank you very much for your encouraging comments. I was personally very challenged by my own response to the Pakistan Massacre, or lack there of. UNtil I had coffee with friends and they talked about it, I hadn’t really taken it in and realised the gravity of it all. Quite often when we hear the news and there’s no personal connection to the place we switch off. I am particularly conscious of this as an Australian but I was talking to an English guy tonight and he said it’s the same there and when something happens on home soil, it’s rude shock. That doesn’t happen here.
    I would also like to wish you and yours a loving and peaceful Christmas and a New Year filled with goodness xx Rowena

  10. roweeee Post author

    Ruth, you put that so beautifully. I think we might light a few candles tomorrow night. We’ll be going to the Christmas Eve service and the kids will dress up…an angel and a shepherd. Somehow we goodness needs to join together and be the light. and yes, God be with us!
    Wishing you and yours a loving and peaceful Christmas and a New Year full of God’s light xx Rowena

  11. carlpeters

    What an utterly fantastic resonse! I too like cookin and may just try your idea out with the anecdotes! You’re right about taking coupla deep breaths before reacting! We all need to do it, then we can be listeners and extroverts in the right place! I tell people that I’m a bit reserved but those that know me will tell you that I can talk the hind legs off a donkey! Thanx for xmas wishes and I am installed at me Ma’s house with me sis right now as I am typing (in fact it’s Ma’s comp!)! IT’S XMAS!!!!!! xx

  12. Pingback: Walking Through Martin Place: 6 Weeks After the Sydney Siege. | beyondtheflow

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