Boxing Day has been a tough day for many years. In 2005, it was the day that my Grandad went into hospital. He never made it out. Several friends have lost parents and spouses during this week. But by far the worst was 5 years ago when we got a call to say that my childhood friend had been found dead on Christmas Eve night. It took until Boxing Day for the police to track us down because our family friends (who were his last known recorded address) were away on Christmas Day. I spent the next 24 hours in total shock, and I still remember about 2 days later stumbling out the house with my Mum to the supermarket and bumping into some friends from high school. I just wasn’t with it and I don’t think they knew what to say. I spent Hogmanay with my high school friends that year for the last time. On New Year’s Day I drove to the beach and saw a rainbow across the sky – that was the day I decided to get my Themba tattoo. Just over two weeks later I was attending the funeral.
Over the last week, I’ve been asked a few times about the yellow band I’ve been wearing on my wrist since September. The Myers family sent it over to me to wear for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I always remember the families who have lost their siblings/children at this time of year. I loved that in the place where I work, the chosen charity is a children’s cancer one at the moment – they’ve been using the empty shops to use as memory spaces. One evening after work I added to their memory tree all the people that have been our Airmail Christmas honourees. And Oliver too.
Christmas can be really tough when you are grieving. There can still be joy, but also mixed with sadness at the people missing from the table.
Often my church friends comment on how ‘normal’ I am despite everything. And I often wonder – Why me? What was it that stopped me going down the route so many of my childhood friends? It’s not that I’ve made great choices my whole life. I’ve had my moments. I could say it’s because God was looking out for me, but that seems very trite and narcissistic. Because was he not looking out for my brother or my friends? Doesn’t He love us all equally?
Anyway, that is where my head is at today. It pretty much goes there every Christmas Eve-Boxing Day now. And it also goes to all my friends – in real life and in the land of social media who are facing their first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth…. Christmas without their loved one. Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel things so acutely, but I do and I don’t think that will ever change. I just hate seeing people hurting and always wish I could step into their place so they weren’t hurting anymore.