When Bad Things Happen to Good Christmases

snowmanIt’s been a somewhat trying crappy week here at Casa Nancy.  Christmas has always been my favorite holiday — indeed, my favorite time of the year, hands down.  I’ve always been a “Christmas nut” and have never found holiday preparations a chore, but have consistently taken great joy in the decorating, baking, wrapping, music, etc. that is Christmas.  This year?  Not so much.

Though Charlie’s Dad sailed through his surgery, he’s had some setbacks along the way — difficulty breathing, low blood pressure and heart rate, inability to eat, etc.  All things that I’m sure will be rectified in time, but setbacks, just the same.  Hope of him being home for Christmas has all but faded, although if he continues to make progress, he may be moved from the city to our local hospital to finish his recuperation.  That’s been an ongoing concern and has been a tiring few weeks for Charlie and his Mom especially, as they make regular trips to and from the city.  However, we are all grateful that the surgery is done.

The day after Charlie’s Dad had his surgery, my younger daughter called with devastating news.  A young friend that was to join her to watch a hockey game after work, died of a brain aneurysm that morning.  She had just celebrated her 18th birthday.  We were all shocked, and greatly saddened for her family.  That’s the sort of thing that leaves you completely stymied — I don’t get it, and never will.

Today, when I was talking to the same daughter, she told me that she had had a call from her Dad (my ex husband) to tell her that his wife of three years had had a seizure at work and a scan had revealed several tumors on her brain.  He didn’t know much more than that as they wait for more test results, but I can only imagine how heavy their hearts must be tonight.  She’s a lovely woman with two daughters of her own and a brand new grandchild.

So, through all this, I’ve plodded forward, going through the motions of putting up a tree, scattering decorations around the apartment, and making lists with little enthusiasm, all the time wondering how you rescue a Christmas that has so much sadness attached to it.

One thing about it, news such as this quickly hammers home one point:  no matter how bad you think you have it, there’s always someone else who is going through something worse than you are.  Of course, we all know this.  But sometimes it takes having it tossed in your face to really get it.

I’m sure the answer is simplicity.  Simplifying plans…reducing events to their minimum while concentrating on celebrating the relationships we hold dear.  The year my Dad had his stroke, he was in hospital and/or rehab from the end of October to December 14.  My Mom, exhausted from the almost daily trips to and from the city, had declared that Christmas would be “whatever it turned out to be” that year.  She put out a few decorations and made plans for the usual Christmas dinner, but gifts were checks inserted in cards, baking was bought for the first time in memory, and we all had a much more relaxed attitude about the holidays that year.  The big thing was that my Dad was coming home.  As simple as that.  And it was one of the nicest Christmases I can remember.

Bad things do happen to good people…and good Christmases.  While we wait for news from those who are facing uncertainties in the days ahead, I’ll be doubly sure to voice my gratitude for healthy daughters and grandchild, for safe travel, and for the gathering of family and friends this holiday season.  After all, that is Christmas.


Author: nancybond

A writer, photographer, naturalist from small town Nova Scotia, Canada.

34 thoughts on “When Bad Things Happen to Good Christmases”

  1. I understand what you are facing this month, I went through a similar trial about 5 years ago. You are so right in just keeping things simple and treasuring your family. Still, even in having a crappy week, you take the time to visit my little posting and offer support and positive thoughts.
    Thank you.

  2. I can empathise fully Nancy, my own treatment for Breast Cancer has taken its toll, and although I don’t have to do the 80 mile round trip every day now, having to do it everyday for 5 weeks until the middle of last month was exhausting. I continue to recover. Like you we have had 3 deaths in the family, my aunt last week, and two of my sisters have lost their Father in Laws, one this week, one 3 weeks ago, his was especially tragic, he was found drowned in a canal.

    My heart goes out to you, as I can understand totally just how difficult it is to feel enthusiastic about celebrations when so much pain is all around you.

    Thinking of you Nancy,

    Zoë x

  3. Nancy, my heart and prayers go out to you and yours this holiday season. It seems like just when we think life will always be wonderful the rug is pulled out from under us. We just have to grasp the good things and let the bad roll on through so it can be over, done and gone.

  4. Nancy, Similar events are happening to those I love and this year Christmas was hard to embrace…but I did as you did and put up the tree and even held my small party for my girlfriends…I think the decorations and the merry wishes helped them. Maybe the Christmas tree all lit up that Charlie sees when he returns from a tough visit to his dad…will speak to the sad little boy inside him and make him smile just a little bit. Gail

  5. Like others who have commented similarly, this has been a rough 4th quarter here as well. Too many deaths among family and friends and too many serious illnesses diagnosed. We, too, are simplifying this year. Not just because of the economy, which is one major concern, but because we are hungry for something meaningful, not all flashily commercialized or frantic.

    Prayers coming your way, dear, for you and yours.

  6. Nancy,

    I’m very sorry to hear of your daughter’s friend. The best thing is to be thankful for what you have and what the season is for. It seems that things tend to go wrong this time of year but maybe it’s just because something so joyous is marred by tragedy so significantly. We’ll be thinking of you and your family!


  7. Dear Nancy ~ there are many arms around you, including mine. Simple is good and really how we all should approach this season. I’ve had endured many ‘heavy’ holidays also including, as you know, last year nearly loosing my sister, Nancy. My young brother-in-law died on Christmas many years ago (my sister, a widow with 4 little children). My husband and I dropped everything and raced to catch a plane on Christmas eve to be with the children, only to be bumped in Pittsburg, taking a bus through a snowstorm to reach them. The plane we were suppose to be on crashed … My other sister, Nancy (then in the Peace Corps) raced home from Afghanistan for the funeral. The original plane she was scheduled to board, crashed. For sure, life is filled with many twists & turns. Christmas Blessings for your family and Charlie’s dad.

  8. Many blessings can come from what, at the time feel like curses. Those blessing will be revealed to you in due time. Until then, hold your head up, know that we are praying for you and yours, and try to enjoy the many blessings you already know that you have.

  9. It seems that bad times always come at holidays, but then when you realize the number of holidays, it’s bound to happen. It’s hard to focus on the beauty of the season at times like these, but in my opinion that IS the beauty of the season. It takes us away from our troubles, if even for a few moments, and shows us the good in life. I will pray for you and your family. May you have a joyous and blessed Christmas!

  10. I think Joey’s post says it all, Nancy. There’s just no understanding any of it. My heart aches for that girl’s parents. It’s just awful. I think that’s the thing about Christmas – it’s supposed to be happy, period. No sadness, no bad memories, no pain. But it just doesn’t work that way. I wish I lived closer.

  11. It is at this time of the year and during these stressful economic times that I try to count my blessings on a daily basis. I’m so sorry for the sad news all around in your family. Take care Nancy. I wish you & yours good thoughts & prayers.

  12. As evidenced by the above posts, know you have many friends “out there” that you’ve never met. With all the thoughts and prayers that go along with them (including me). Christmas is indeed about relationships and the loving and caring that goes along with them. In the bad times we have the privilege of lifting each other up and helping each other out. Blessings to you and may you find time to be rested in order to be able to do all that loving and caring.

  13. Dear Nancy,
    That is a series of events which would stun anyone. I think you are right, that sometimes it is best to take thing more simply. That is helpful advice for me, too. You have inspired the real meaning of Christmas.
    All the best to you and yours.

  14. Ohhh it breaks my heart when people must go through losing loved ones at the holidays (or anytime for that matter) especially a young one, sigh.

    Christmas is not about the decorations, gifts, or even the food (I can’t believe I just said that!) but it is about the blessing that is our family, and those that we count as friends.

    Thanks for the reminder to hold tight to that which God has blessed us with and let go that which just isn’t that important. Kim

  15. Nancy, my thoughts and prayers are with you, in this time of troubles. I certainly hope all works out well for you and yours. Try and concentrate on the good things, like your healthy children and grandchildren, and of course your own good health. It is so important….. Helen

  16. Aw Nancy, this is all too much isn’t it. So very hard to understand when such a young person dies. And do hope that Charlie’s Dad’s situtation improves. Holidays come and go, and I bet anyone who didn’t know you would look at what you have done and think it was wonderful. Be very kind to yourself. Sending prayers your way.

  17. Hugs to you Nancy.

    May the good things that happen to you and your family help to outshine all that’s bad.

    You’re right – perhaps simplifying things like the year your dad came home help us to appreciate and enjoy Christmas more as we learn what is really important in life.


  18. Nancy, My heart goes out to you and your family; sometimes it seems like everything bad happens all at once.

    I remember the Christmas we celebrated with my in-laws at the local nursing home where my father-in-law was staying. It was simple, but all the grandchildren and the two new greats were there. I know it meant a lot to both of my in-laws; little did we know that would be the last Christmas we would be able to share with either of them.

    I admire you for having such a positive attitude; enjoy what is really important this Christmas season.

  19. Dear Nancy, I hope you are taking a bit of time for yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in the swirl of life especially when it does not meet with our own pictures and expectations. Somewhere within you (I am positive) is the knowing that all is unfolding “as it should” in spite of what looks like “horrible timing.” I find myself recalling Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me.” At Christmastime, no less! It happens, and somehow it makes it seem all the more sad, doesn’t it? I have a feeling you will still be baking some cookies, or making a fruit cake (or they must be stored in tins somewhere, right?) and the warmth you find will light up those particularly challenged right now. I hope you are getting enough sleep, staying warm, eating right. You need it now, especially. Love and blessings, Kathryn xoxo

  20. Bless you, Nancy!!! And all your family. It seems that we (and everyone we know) are simplifying at Christmas this year, whether from economic drain or overpowering business or some other tyype of strain. Having lost my own best-beloved mother and grandparents years ago—the very heart of my own Christmases—and being far from many others I love and would wish to be with at this time of year, I have for years taken the opportunity at Christmas to dwell in the memories of a blissful and blessed past, to give thanks for the memories I treasure and for all the many bright blessings I have been given through my “Christmases past.” I have come to love this quiet “time out” at Christmas, even as we venture forth to celebrate with nearby friends or head Southward to spend some cherished time with family, to the point where I always try to make a little space around me for remembrance. I’ve also found that in straightened times, the gifts and celebrations people come up with seem somehow more heartfelt. Knee-jerk stuff falls by the wayside, and joy and treasures emerge. I hope that you and yours find some treasures to cherish this Christmas, and say with Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one.”

  21. It is difficult to celebrate when others are going through so much sorrow and pain. I think to simplify and focus on the people we love rather than all of the trimmings is a good plan. I’m getting emotional just thinking about all the suffering that surrounds those you know, Nancy.

    I’m hoping that you will still be able to find joy and peace with those you love during this Christmas season.

  22. Nancy, I know how you feel. I love to prepare the house for Christmas and plan what to cook, and what to give people, and I know how empty it feels when the people you love are ill or not with you. I bought two ‘How To Do Christmas’ type books earlier in the autumn and was so looking forward to trying out ideas and having wonderful gatherings. I haven’t even opened them.
    But I think your mother, along with many of those commenting here, was right. Christmas will still be Christmas even if you don’t bake the cake or decorate the tree. What matters is the message of hope, and joy, that it brings to us all. You’re in my prayers.

  23. Hi Nancy. I haven’t been doing much blog visiting lately so my heart is breaking catching up on your posts. I’m so sorry to hear all of your bad news. We would all be better off focusing on the truly important things in life vs the commercialism that Christmas has become. I am guilty of getting caught up in it as well and do my share of grumbling, mostly about why we buy gifts for people who have everything. I think simplifying is the answer. I wish you peace this season and the comfort of your friends and family to sustain you.

  24. If it is any consolation know that you are in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Do not get so wrapped up in the tragedies that you overlook your blessings at this special time of year.

  25. Yes Christmas can hold some very nasty surprises for us.For example,my wife has just informed me that she no longer wants to live with me and has linked up with my ex best friend of thirty years.
    I was to fly, this afternoon, to my son’s home 3000 klms away to spend christmas with him.I have just received a call telling me that my daughter is suicidal because her and her boyfriend have split up and requires some support in her hour of need.

  26. I hope you find some part of Christmas to enjoy this year, Nancy. For many years after my sister died just before Christmas, my whole family was brought down and had a hard time feeling good about celebrating. While I still miss my sister, this year I haven’t felt down about it. (That only took 13 years.) I wish you and your family the best.

  27. Oh Nancy. I’m doing some catching up on blog reading today and I’m so sorry to hear this. Despite the heavy heart, I can see you have a good attitude and realize what are the important things in life.

    I hope you all managed to enjoy the holidays nonetheless. Hugs to you, Nancy!

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