Well, I'll start out by saying that I have nothing brilliant, profound or poignant to say about 2009 finally being over and 2010 here to bring us what it may.
We have had a fairly quiet pair of holidays with some much-needed rest in between.
2009 has left me weary. I have suffered loss this year, more than any other year in my life so far. I am also aware that my losses this year pale in comparison to those suffered by other people. It has been an eye-opener for me. I feel like I have been living a very naive life. Or maybe a life of denial.
In early November, my oldest son went on a spiritual retreat with classmates. He goes to a Jesuit high school, and so it is not as strange as it may sound. He was away for 4 nights and 3 days and the students participated in small groups where they talked about many things, including their hurts and anxieties, and what they fear and what they try to hide from others. It is very emotional to open up to others and for some, it becomes the first step to getting some much needed help. It also becomes a way for the classmates to become true friends. They open up, they trust, they give support and show unconditional love for each other. Barriers come down. They learn that the person they thought was a snob is really just lonely and shy. The prickly kid is angry and wounded. The distant classmate is coping the best he can. They also learn how to reach out and help. The secrets they tell remain secret within the group. After the retreat, when they see each other in class or pass in the hall, it means so much more when one offers: "How's it goin', dude?". My son tells me the experience gave him a more forgiving view of people. The perspective that people are carrying burdens that we can't always see, and that kindness and forbearance are in order for those who seem unapproachable or unloveable.
The experience was a great catalyst for discussions he and I have had. And it gave me pause to think about my year.
In mid-December, my great-aunt died. She was 87 and had suffered dementia for at least 5 years. At the funeral reception, I visited briefly with my mother's cousin (my great-aunt's daughter, follow me), who really is only a few years older than I. She had lost her father a few years ago, and had been veeeery close with her mother. In her time of loss, she came to me and reached out to me about the loss of my father last April. It meant so much to me. It's hard to explain. Since I lost Dad, I feel more of an urgency to extend sympathy to people who are grieving. Don't get me wrong, I've never lacked sympathy. I guess it's only honest to say that my expressions of sympathy have been strained. I found it difficult, unpleasant to do. I always felt wholly inadequate; I knew that nothing I could say could mitigate their suffering. What I didn't know was just that acknowledging their loss was a comfort. Now I know that offering very simple words of comfort are best, and valuable. "I am so sorry for your loss." "I know you loved him/her very much." "This is such a hard time for you." I especially loved when people told me they loved my Dad too. I'm weeping now to remember my Dad's cousin Harley tell stories of them growing up together. Stories I'd never heard, but which ring true to my Dad's personality and character.
So, all in all, I guess I'm saying 2009 hasn't been all fun and games, and that I'm trying to put the difficulties into perspective, and move forward a better person.