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Life Changes and Your Holiday Traditions Can Too

Updated on November 16, 2013
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We are often reminded that this life is all we have. There are no guarantees of tomorrow or beyond. Look around you. Do you appreciate what you have? Do your friends and family know how much they mean to you? If you aren’t sure, there is no time like the present to make sure.

Many years ago, a life event changed our family. A stroke almost took my mother from us and life as we knew it was forever changed. The winter holidays would never be the same. All the traditions that we spent decades building had to be replaced with new traditions. Finding myself with a little extra time on Christmas Day and on New Years too was hard. But, it was an opportunity to reflect and, a time to be grateful. This is the story of how I found joy in the changes.

Reality, gratitude, and the healing of old wounds

Our family had to adapt to life after the stroke. In the days and weeks after the stroke, I began to think about friends and family that meant so much to me. Life had once again taught me an important lesson. At any moment in time, the people I love could be taken from me and I wasn’t sure they knew how much I loved them. It was time for me to fix that. I had reached the age when I knew I had more days behind me than I did ahead of me and I wasn’t willing to let time run out. Regret was not something I was willing to live with, not even for a minute.

It started with a list of those I had lost touch with and, for a variety of reasons, had left with some degree of conflict. When you’re young, you think it doesn’t matter that some minor conflict takes you in a different direction than your friends or family. Suddenly you find yourself older and wiser and you are tired of dragging that baggage around. It’s time to unpack the suitcase and deal with what comes out.

Over the next few months, I got in touch with every person that I felt I had judged or neglected. I cannot tell you how healing it is to apologize and mean it. In some situations, I still felt I had been right but my choice to end the relationship had been wrong. These were people I had shared my life with. We had laughed together, gotten foolishly drunk together, shared concerts and sunsets and in some instances, had shared our deepest secrets with each other. They were people that had helped me grow as a person. They had been my teachers.

Once I had worked my way through the list, it was as if the weight of the world had been lifted. The anger that had lived in my heart for so long was replaced with a sense of peace and true joy. What a gift!

Turning sadness into joy

Shortly after completing my list, I had to face the first Christmas since my Mom’s stroke. Our holidays would be different this year as we adapted them to my Mom’s mobility and stamina. The traditions we had maintained for centuries would no longer work. It was a difficult time but we had no choice. Creating new traditions left me with a little extra time over the holiday season. Having become acutely aware of how quickly life can change, I wanted to make that extra time meaningful.

While having quite the pity party for myself and feeling quite alone, I heard the answer loud and clear. My new tradition would give me joy but more importantly, I hoped it would bring unexpected joy to someone else. My spare time during the holiday would be spent writing a letter to some of the pivotal people in my life, telling them why they meant so much to me. I would open my heart and let my love for them flow through me onto the paper.

The start of a new tradition

These would not be ordinary letters. They would be stories about the feelings imprinted on my memory from the times we had shared. I would reveal to the recipient the lessons I had learned from them and what characteristics I saw in them that had made me a better person for having known them. These would be letters of the heart.

This has been my tradition now for the past thirteen years. It is a tradition I look forward to now as it has given new meaning to the season for me. Throughout the year I find myself thinking about who the next recipient will be but I am always surprised when I sit down to write the letter.

This process has become a ritual, a ceremony of sorts in which I celebrate the life of someone I love or admire. Before beginning, I sit quietly, reflecting on the faces and events that have been a part of my journey over the past year. During that time of reflection, the recipient of my letter is revealed to me and is rarely who I thought it would be. They are defined by the realization that what seemed most memorable at the time, wasn’t at all. Time has a way of changing the landscape and we find that our first impression or reaction to a situation is rarely accurate. It takes time for those precious moments to reveal themselves completely.

Love doesn't exist until you give it away

The reaction to my letters has been amazing and has proven over and over again that even though our lives are intertwined and complex, we rarely share our hearts completely with each other. But to do so, forms a bond that is infinite. When you share your sincere feelings and true self to someone you care about, you give a gift that cannot be duplicated. It carries no price tag but what you receive in the giving is invaluable.

This life, is the only one we have and this moment could be our last chance to share our heart, to say thank you to someone who has made us who we are. I cannot wait to write my letters this year. Even with so much pain and sorrow in the world today, I know my holidays will be filled with joy and gratitude.

Yes, our family traditions have changed but these new and more simple traditions are even better than the old ones. They are the traditions of the heart, and our gifts are – love.


Read more of my hubs here.

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  • xstatic profile image

    Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

    I admire your attitude very much. I have outlived many I judged and many who judged me. I will give some thought to those who are left.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    All I can say is nice and picking up cards tonight

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Bev and I met five years ago. Since then we have slowly formed our own traditions; sometimes it's a simple one in the middle of the day, and others are holy shit traditions that come at a certain time of year...but they are all important, and they have extra meaning because the continue to strengthen the bond she and I have for each other.

    I love your tradition, Linda. You are a beautiful person my friend; some day we are going to have to meet for a real hug.

    love,

    bill

  • Diana Lee profile image

    Diana L Pierce 4 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

    This sounds like a great tradition. Life is too short. Voted up.

  • Faith Reaper profile image

    Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

    Oh Linda, this is a most beautiful hub you have written here. Thank you for sharing with us about your dear mother, which brought tears to my eyes thinking of my sweet mother too.

    I just love everything about this hub from beginning to end. You are so right . . . "Love doesn't exist until you give it away." What a lovely message here right at Christmas.

    Voted up+++ and sharing

    Blessings and hubs my dear friend. Merry Christmas.

    In His Love, Faith Reaper

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    X - Merry Christmas to you! Although it did not seem so at the time, my mother's stroke occurred before it was too late for me to make my apologies. I have so much peace for having taken care of it when I did. I found some of the issues that created separation to be so utterly ridiculous, in hindsight. But oh they seemed monumental at the time. I'm in a good place now, for having done that. Good luck with your inventory and thank you for being here today.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Eric. Thank you for reading this one. I promise you won't regret getting those cards done. I wish you the same joy and peace that I found. Merry Christmas Eric!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    My special friend Bill, all our hugs are real, aren't they? They seem real to me. I always sense your joy when you speak of the relationship between you and Bev and I am genuinely happy that you have found such love with each other. Yours is a real love story. Merry Christmas to the both of you my friend.

    Big hugs (real ones).

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Diana. Thank you for reading my hub. Life, yes, it's too short but more importantly, it is unpredictable. That was a hard lesson for me to learn since my youth had left me feeling invincible. Wishing you the best of the holiday season.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

    Linda, with age comes wisdom. All too often, our reactions back then, seem brash today. Maybe, it is the foolhardiness of being young and naive that made us react in a particular way. Aging gives us a broader perspective of life and a better understanding of feelings and situations. I too have realized this after reaching a certain point in life and tend to make up with those old friendships that have withered for lack of intention and communication.

    You have probably done the most wonderful thing by initiating a healing of sorts. After all, we only get this life once.

    Beautiful hub Linda. It's a subject that is close to my heart.

    Voted up, useful and sharing this ahead.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Dear Faith, my special friend. I adore your big old heart. You and are the blessed ones. You only have one biological mother and if you happen to get a good one, the day will come when you realize just how precious a gift that is. Every second is a gift, when you have almost lost them, isn't it?

    Faith, your family is in my heart, my thoughts, and my prayers and I wish you the most blessed and joyful Christmas possible.

    Love,

    Linda

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello Rajan! Your comment has touched my heart as I can feel your the sincerity in your words. There was a time in my life when I allowed myself to become toxic from anger that resulted from a difficult relationship. One day I looked in the mirror and didn't recognize myself anymore. It was a turning point and, the day I truly came to understand the healing power of forgiveness.

    Yes, age is a wonderful teacher. Thanks you for your beautiful comment Rajan.

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

    I am somewhat of a different opinion. Life is rich and long. But I hope readers will heed your words. The fact that I did live a Joyous life makes my current situation bearable.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    MH, our feelings about life are always dependent on the view from our perch. Whether we life as short or long, the important things is that we don't look at ti from an angry heart. That's what really makes the difference. I wish you peace this holiday season my friend.

  • AudreyHowitt profile image

    Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

    A beautiful tradition!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Audrey, thanks for reading. I appreciate the time and the comment.

  • Cathy Fidelibus profile image

    Ms. Immortal 4 years ago from NJ

    Very beautiful sentiments and tradition.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thank you Cathy and thanks for the visit. Merry Christmas.

  • Lipnancy profile image

    Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

    I feel that the written word is the most powerful. It is said that people do not want written letters anymore. But they do.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Lipnancy. I love to receive a handwritten note. It is much more personal, in my opinion. Thanks for reading and commenting. Merry Christmas.

  • ImKarn23 profile image

    Karen Silverman 4 years ago

    Isn't it strange sometimes how amazing gifts evolve from terrible tragedies? I hate to sound cliche and use the term 'silver lining' - but - your beautiful mother opened another avenue for you to become an even better person - and that gift has come back to you tenfold!

    You're lucky to have such a special woman in your life - and it's a beautiful thing to see how much you cherish her!

    All the best to you and your mom, Linda!

  • phdast7 profile image

    Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    For a long time I have been convinced that we have lost something crucial in not taking the time to write letters. I love how you have chosen to invest your time and your love. I love everything about this hub actually! :) Blessings! Sharing.

  • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

    Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

    To forgive others is the biggest joy. I agree that it gives peace to our hearts. You expressed your own feelings, but all human are the same and what you said touched me as well. Thank you.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Dear Leslie, thank you so much. Your comment really touched my heart. I really was one of those lucky ones and the older I get, the more I realize it.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Theresa. You have made me feel so good with your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to read my hub. That too is an investment that I never take for granted. Blessings to you too!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello Paylo. Thank you for visiting me here. Forgiveness is a very powerful healer, isn't it? I am grateful for your comment. Blessings!

  • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

    Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

    Voted up and interesting. Traditions are always great to have for the holidays. Peace and love must come from the heart and be shared with others. Passing this on.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello Gypsy. Happy holidays to you! Thanks for reading and sharing. Love isn't love until you give it away. :-)

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Dear Linda,

    Oh I relate so well to how you feel about the lasting impact of life-altering events.

    You have shared such beautiful examples of how to appreciate those who have touched us, whether close contact or annual greetings are exchanged.

    Mom taught me that flowers were so much more important when the person is alive to appreciate. I translate that to telling people what they mean to me immediately...as opposed to telling their relatives at a wake.

    In keeping with Honey BB's challenge today, this is the 19th of 26 hubs I intend to read.

    This hub is in honor of Caroline Previdi (09-07-06) and may her sweet soul rest in peace.

    Love, Maria

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Maria, your Mom and mine must be very much alike. My Mom taught me the same. I try very hard to let people know how much they mean to me. You, for instance, have become very special in a very short time. I am so glad we are friends.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, you continue to amaze me with your selfless heart. This tradition you have maintained for the past thirteen years is awesome. I would venture to say that the recipients of your letters would deem them the best Christmas gift they have ever received.

    You blow me away!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Shauna, you are so kind. I'm just trying to pay my way in this old world. People have been so good to me and I really am surrounded by some amazing people. It's only fair that I tell them while I have the chance.

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