I was rearranging a room the other day, and something made me turn over the art piece in the attached picture. I had forgotten entirely that there was a handwritten message on the back. The art had been given to my grandparents from my aunt and cousin. All of these fantastic and beautiful people have now passed. Most recently my cousin John who left us this Summer.
I studied the image. It reminded me of a story that my cousin Don had told at the service for John. It was about how they had crept into my grandparent's backyard and thrown his prize tomatoes over the fence in fascination. They were around four and five and apparently, they thought it was a magic land where things just disappeared!
The message brought tears to my eyes. So many of our loved ones have passed and so many times forgotten. I realized how often I have heard others say, "When you look back, you will remember these times fondly" or "Someday the children won't be at home, so make the most of them now."
People having to be reminded to take in the moment and to appreciate who they have is a symbol of how busy and disconnected we have become. There are many times of my life that I wish I could go back and redo or feel again in its full sense.
I grew up in England and travelled to and from Canada each year with my sister. I have happy memories of Christmases coming to Canada and being with my family. We did get up to a lot of mischief and laugh until our sides hurt. My older cousins Don and John, were the brothers I didn't have and always set us up with pranks and craziness. My grandparents would greet us with freshly baked butter tarts and a warm hug. My aunts, uncles and stepmom would make fantastic food and delicious coffee with lots of chatter and laughter and my dad would always play a plethora of music and create mischief.
My cousin Maryellen was my extra sister who introduced me to diverse music, movies and was part of my learning in being true to who you are.
Such coziness of memories I have worked to instil in my own life. I realized over the years that trying to re-enact this wasn't possible as although I could replicate the food, the music and tradition, I couldn't bring back the people. Ultimately the people and their souls made the magic. The ones who have passed bring their magic in different ways each year. The family that are here live near and far and the times we have are precious. Precious and very different from before. The solid foundation of these times settled into my being and allowed me to know the feeling of tradition and warmth.
I was out the other day and observed people scrabbling around with deep lines of stress on their faces. The shops all with line ups and people on their phones half-listening to those around them. The amount of detachment in our world today is incredible. This kind of detachment blocks us from being present or to feel experiences in the full sense. Many were taking time to take the perfect or happiest shot to share on social media or trying to make something feel good at the detriment of their own wellbeing.
When you truly look around you, who will be here this time next year? No-one knows. No-one knows what is going to happen one second from now, one minute from now or one year from now. All you know is right this very second. If you are disconnected right this very second, it is an illusion. You are giving your time away to falsities and fantasies. If all you know is this moment, don't you owe it to yourself and loved ones to be fully present and connected? To feel the fabric of love and your own tradition?
Remembering the past times, good or bad all have growth. They are reminders of what you do and don't want in your life.
The biggest lesson I had from reading this art was the reminder to laugh and to be taken back for a short time to the warm hug of past times and souls I miss. To have another Christmas with them all and hear their laughter in the kitchen and the warm hug after sledding in the snow and being snow pilled by my cousins is far more valuable than anything that can be purchased.
I am blessed to have a vast family in both England and Canada. My children experience love and tradition in many different ways and beliefs. This gift is to be comfortable in diversity. Although the times of the art piece are precious and irreplaceable, my amazing huge family creates new traditions and milestones every time we meet. Each generation learning and growing from each other.
Our family holds honour to those we have lost by carrying on some of our loved ones traditions. It is our small way of acknowledging the times we had and the love that they keep giving.
I hope you are able to take a moment this holiday to hold space for those who have passed before you. For anyone feeling the sorrow of lost love, I wish for you peace in you heart and to know that your loved ones are with you.
Wishing you all a loving and peaceful holiday.
Andrea Lines-Botell is a mental health advocate and life coach with a passion for dynamically supporting change.
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