I love Christmas time.
It’s all about fun, family, friends…a season of magic to warm up the chill of winter outside. It’s a chance to be a big kid (not that I need any excuse!) and indulge in all the things that we spend the rest of the year saying “oh I shouldn’t…” to.
It’s also the time of year where you get to hear from people that you haven’t heard from in the last 12 months, and often haven’t seen in much longer.
When the Christmas cards start appearing, it’s great hearing all the little bits of news that get included with the greetings inside.
A couple of years ago, however, one card had some news that we weren’t expecting.
News that came as quite a shock.
A family friend wrote and told us that her son lost his battle with colon cancer in the November before.
He was 30.
Now…this might sound like a bit of a depressing topic to be sharing just before Christmas…but bear with me…there is a string of festive fairy lights at the end of the tunnel, I promise.
I would like to say that Steven is the first person who I have known who has parted this life early. Unfortunately I can’t.
I lost a dear friend from university to cancer in her early twenties, one of my parents’ closest friends lost his wife to a sudden brain haemorrhage, my sister lost a friend from school to cancer, and a few years back a friend and shining light in the salsa dancing community was taken from us in a car accident at the age of 24.
This recent sudden loss cause me to reflect on this a lot…and it occurred to me that none of the people I have mentioned here would have had any clue that their last Christmas, was their last Christmas.
If they had known, if their families and loved ones had known, what would they have done differently? If they had the chance to have another ‘last Christmas’ what would they do to make it the most magical of all?
Now, I hope for myself and each and every one of you that we will all live long and happy lives into old age, spending many Christmases to come filled with fun and laughter, surrounded by friends and family all driving us crazy and creating more special memories together.
But if this were your last Christmas, what would YOU do to make it the most magical? What would you make sure you said to the people you love? How would you enjoy every single moment?
What are the insignificant niggles that you would let go because they just don’t matter? What are the moments that you would take a mental photograph of? How would you make every minute with the people you care about most matter? What could you do to make it the best Christmas you and your family and friends have ever had?
As some of you know, when I was doing my marathon training a few years back I had a revelation which totally changed the experience of running for me.
I realised that there must be hundreds of thousands of people in the world who would love to be able to experience what I was doing on my morning run, but couldn’t (for whatever reason). So I began running for them.
Each session was dedicated to someone else who couldn’t run for themselves…and when I ran, I ran the way I imagined that they would if they had the opportunity to run just once. It was a total game changer for me. Something which once felt like a chore became an incredible experience filled with gratitude and fun.
Now I know, that every single one of those people who didn’t realise that they were experiencing their last Christmas would LOVE the opportunity to have just one last festive season with their closest family and friends, and their family and friends would give anything to have one last Christmas with the person who’s no longer here with us.
A couple of years ago I took this message to heart and added a new tradition to my Christmas celebrations. I wanted to take the festive season as a prompt, a reminder to tell the people closest to me how I feel about them, to say thank you to them and to let them know how much they mean to me.
So every year, normally on Christmas Eve, I take the time to sit down and write a personal thank you note to each of the members of my family. I remind them of fun times we’ve had together, of memories from my childhood, of moments we’ve shared in the past year. I let them know how grateful I am for them, for the relationship we have and how much I love them.
I always shed a tear or two of love and appreciation when writing these letters, and the response they get always touches my heart. My 85 year old Grandmother is not normally one for sentiment, but she has often said how those letters, reminding her of special moments we shared when I was young, taking a moment to say all the things we forget to say most of the time, really mean something to her.
What started off as a single piece of inspiration, is now a Christmas tradition…and one that I always look forward to as I know every Christmas my family and loved ones get to hear, from my heart to theirs, just how much they mean to me.
So maybe this year as well as all the boxes and presents under your tree there could be a few simple envelopes that contain in them a gift that is priceless, for the people you care most about? Hearing in your words how much they mean to you.
I’m sure that every single one of us knows someone who didn’t know they were having their last Christmas with someone special, whether they are the person who is still here, or the one who left before they expected to.
So how about this year we choose to celebrate this Christmas in their spirit? Enjoy every moment of this Christmas season the way that they would if they had the chance to do it again. To soak up every second and make memories which we will all cherish.
…and why not celebrate every special occasion…even every day like it were our last? We would focus on the best of each moment, and instantly dismiss any minor frustrations which don’t mean anything when you look at the big picture. What memories we would create!
I don’t know about you…but if my lifetime is going to be the long and happy one that I fully intend for it to be, then I want it to be filled with THOSE kinds of memories. 😀
How about you?
I wish every single one of you a Christmas celebrated with the people who you love as if it were the last you were going to get. One filled with happiness, laughter and love.