The holiday season doesn’t always bring with it a picture-perfect scene fresh out of a hallmark movie. For many, this time of year ushers in a complex whirlwind of emotions, juxtaposed against the backdrop of joy and celebration. This week I had the opportunity to rest and celebrate Thanksgiving surrounded by my loving family. I am so very grateful for these moments and definitely count my blessings.
In the Holiday Spirit – A Mother’s Legacy
But coupled with that joy is a sense of loss, as this time of year was my mother’s favorite time of year. Despite the chaos that surrounded our lives, I saw an extra pep in her step and joy in her spirit. As if she didn’t already work hard enough, she’d pick up extra shifts and engage with various community support organizations to ensure we didn’t go without. Superwoman didn’t have anything on my mother.
From the time I was about 5 years old, I was done being an only child. I wanted a brother. I don’t know that I really had a preference on brother or sister as a child. Something just welled up in my heart to specifically ask for a brother.
A Wish Granted
And it was on this day in 1988 that my wish came true. After eating a full Thanksgiving feast at my aunt Shorty’s house, my mom went into labor. Hours later, my baby brother, Michael, was born. I had just turned 10 that summer – I was definitely a BIG brother.
In an instant, I saw a different spark in my mother’s eyes. After years of living in the grips of chaos, I saw a renewed sense of conviction towards a better life. As the years ticked on I would watch my mother go back to school and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. She was done scratching and clawing – it was time to step into something greater.
Navigating Adversity and Loss
And then, as quickly as things began to look up, a door was slammed in our face. That door was my mother’s Leukemia diagnosis my sophomore year of high school. Almost 3 years later we’d celebrate our last Christmas together. From hopeful to hellish, in an instant. The holidays would never be the same.
In the often unpredictable cadence of life, we’re presented with seasons of adversity and uncertainty. We see loved ones caught up in battles that strain their spirit. Perhaps, as you read these words, you find your own reflection staring back at you, acknowledging that these struggles hit close to home – maybe even within your own story.
Embracing Support and Overcoming Isolation
The weight of these trials can bring a profound sense of isolation, emptiness, and loneliness. Negative self-talk becomes the unwelcome companion, spinning tales of unworthiness that isolate us further from the warmth of family and friends. Grief grabs our soul with a tight grasp. A shadow of loss, disillusionment, and despondency is cast over our lives.
I’m grateful for so many wonderful people who have provided a kind, thoughtful ear over the course of these moments throughout my life. Never minimizing my feelings. Always providing space to be, feel, and work through it all. The powerful and positive presence of my wife, children, friends, and various family members has helped me see beyond the pain, towards joy and purpose.
Empathy in Action
For those who may be treading a path lined with adversity, remember, you’re not walking alone. There are empathetic souls willing to lend an ear, devoid of judgment, ready to support you through this tumultuous season.
And for those who observe these battles from the sidelines, I urge you to move beyond the mere acknowledgment of their struggle.
Reach out and let them know you care. Sometimes, people aren’t necessarily seeking solutions to their plight; they simply crave a listener, someone who notices their struggles without the pressure to fix them. Our ability to give of our time to just be available is one of the greatest gifts we can present.
Consider the profound impact of reaching out to that one person who entered into your thoughts as you read these lines.
How many lives could we positively influence with a simple act of compassion?
How many souls could we uplift from the depths of despair?
A Call to Action: Be a Lighthouse
I don’t often leave you with action items to pursue in my reflections, but I have one today. Be a beacon of light for someone when you finish this piece. Extend your hand, lend your ear, and offer a space of refuge.
In doing so, you may just become the guiding star for someone navigating the turbulent waters of life. And always remember, in this shared journey of humanity, someday, someone might become that guiding light for you. I firmly believe that our ability to love, offer empathy, and extend compassion is a reciprocal process. We giveth and we receive.
Wishing peace, love, comfort, and blessings to you all this holiday season and beyond.