Not all holidays are meant to be jolly. After working in a hospital for many years, I have seen people suffer through many Christmases at the bedside of their loved ones while they are sick and dying. I realize that December 25th happens to be only one day out of 365 in a year and not everyone is guaranteed to have a “good day” on that particular day just because it happens to be Christmas.
There are people who will go hungry that day. People who will have no money for toys for their children or no electricity in their homes and some who will actually be sleeping in shelters because they don’t even have homes at all. Some people will spend their day completely alone because they don’t have any family that live close by, some elderly people will wait by the window of their nursing home in their wheelchairs watching every car that pulls into the parking lot hoping that it is their family members coming to spend a short hour with them because that is all the time they can “spare” before returning to their house full of guests and there will also be many people who will leave their families to go to work on Christmas Day.
Not everyone has a perfect situation of a big Christmas tree with loads of presents beneath it, a morning of squealing children who awaken their parents at 5am so excited to see what Santa brought them in the night, followed by a trip to church and then a lavish meal at a table surrounded by friends and loved ones. We used to have those days in our family and we will cherish those memories forever. Unfortunately, our times have changed dramatically and this year will be one of our most difficult.
If you have followed this blog, then you know that my health has deteriorated over the past three years courtesy of Chronic Lyme Disease. Due to that fact, I have ended up on disability and moved in with my mother who is on social security. Obviously, that causes a financial strain. We have been forced to make the decision to move to a more affordable apartment and that move happens to be taking place on December 23rd of this year. The timing couldn’t be worse. We have elected NOT to celebrate Christmas at all this year due to the cost and the pressure of the impending move.
Our entire house if filled with boxes and we are walking through pathways just to function. There was simply no feasible way to decorate, put up a tree, shop for presents with money that we don’t have for items that we don’t need and try to put on a happy face when we are desperately sad to be leaving a home that we have loved for the past eight years. The management company at our apartment complex has raised the rent beyond what we can afford and we are essentially being forced to vacate because we cannot afford to stay here any longer. Here are some photos from years past of the home that we love so much.
To honor the holiday and the home that we are leaving, I decided to look back at all of the Christmas trees we have put up over the past eight years because we didn’t put up a tree this year. Having a Christmas tree has always been a sacred tradition for me and until 2010, I had never missed a single year in my lifetime. However, in 2010 I became so sick with Chronic Lyme Disease that I just couldn’t manage putting up a tree by myself so I set up my small manger. I also assembled my late father’s table top ceramic tree but I couldn’t find a photo of that for the blog. Here are the photos of our trees dating back from 2005 (when we moved to Florida) to the present day.
Christmas 2010 – Chronic Lyme Disease strikes. I am bedridden. No tree for the first time in my life. I can barely pull out my late father’s ceramic tree and I do my Christmas shopping using a motorized cart at Target with the help of a girlfriend. I become disabled and quit working. The holidays will never be the same after this.
Christmas 2011 – After a year of treatment, I mustered the strength to get a tree from the grocery store across the street. I had been so discouraged by the year before that I was determined to get a tree. I put the lights on it but only managed a few of my most precious ornaments. I did almost all of my shopping online and we exchanged very few gifts as the money was running out due to disability. Four months later I moved in with my mother. I was so weak that my friends had to move all of my belongings when my mother had to come and “rescue” me from my apartment after four days of lying in bed, barely eating or drinking from pure exhaustion and pain from trying to do the packing myself.
We had a very difficult year in 2012. Mom had a total knee replacement that didn’t go well, our finances were suffering and I had lost my beloved 21 year old cat. My health continued to deteriorate and I was constantly at the doctor’s office trying everything possible to get control of my Chronic Lyme Disease. By the time the holidays came around, we were not in a very jolly mood. Mom was still walking with a cane on a very swollen knee and I was facing a very aggressive treatment plan for my disease.
There is no tree photo for Christmas 2012 because I was just too sick to take a picture. On December 18th, 2012 I had a PICC line placed in my left upper arm and I started IV antibiotics at home. It was a terrible time for me and I was very sick. Mom managed to put up a small, table-top artificial tree that she had which was pre-lit and she placed a few precious ornaments on it. The tree sat on a box in our living room and sometimes we would turn off all the lights in the living room and just have the tree on at night if I was strong enough to sit in the recliner in the living room. We desperately tried to “get in the spirit” but it was just asking too much of us that year.
On Christmas day, I managed to come out of my room for a few hours to open a couple of gifts but then we had to move the celebration back to my bedroom so I could be lying flat or else I would pass out. I managed to eat a little bit because she had put so much effort into cooking a Christmas meal but truthfully, I didn’t get much down at all. I spent the next five months completely bedridden.
The entire year of 2013 has been a struggle. It has been a year where we have both been trying to rebuild our health. I got my PICC line removed in August, started on a new treatment plan and seem to be getting a little bit stronger in the past two months. I still spend the majority of my days in my bedroom. Mom continues her rehab on her knee and has other medical issues that now need attention. Unfortunately, the two worst things that could have happened to ruin this holiday season for us have happened….
We have to move on December 23rd, as I mentioned, but even worse than that is the fact that Mom just lost her beloved dog Grady on December 2nd. She is struggling with enormous grief and there is no way ANYONE can force themselves to be jolly when they have just lost the pet that was their child for 12 years. So, the decision to not celebrate Christmas at all this year turned out to be providential. We initially did it because we were moving and it just wasn’t realistic but now with Grady gone, there is no way that we could be celebrating anyways.
There are times in people’s lives where December 25th just cannot be a time of joy, celebration, happiness, caroling, parties, food, family and fun. This is one of those years for us. We will go to church and recognize that it is the birthday of Jesus, like we always do (when I have been well enough to leave my bed of course), and then we will get on with the task of LIFE.
Like I have told Mom many times. Christmas to me has never been about the tree, the presents, the food, the fanfare, the shopping or any of that stuff. Christmas is being with my mother. Wherever my mother is, that is where I am supposed to be on Christmas. In my entire life, I have only missed ONE year away from my mother on Christmas and it was horrible. I swore that I would never do it again. It is a promise that I have kept for over 40 years now and I intend to keep it until I die.
It doesn’t matter that this year we will be loading our cars with boxes of our belongings and driving them 10 miles down the road to move into our new apartment. It doesn’t matter that we will be crying because she misses her dog and I miss my cat. It doesn’t even matter if we end up eating at some 24 hour convenience store / gas station because it is the only thing open while we are on the road! We will be together on December 25th taking the steps to start our new life in our new home and closing the chapter on the horrible memories of the past three years.
On Christmas Day, there will be people sitting at the bedside of their loved ones in hospitals, people working in firehouses, on ambulances and in police cars, people flying airplanes so others can get home to their families and people who are suffering out on the cold street corners with nothing to eat. We have nothing to complain about at all. I know what my priority is this holiday season and I am sticking to it…Christmas is where my mother is and that’s all that matters.