I was in one of those healing crystal/singing bowl shops last week buying some handmade soap for a Christmas gift. I pulled a card from a pile at the counter: ‘Forgiveness’ it said in regal, purple cursive.
“Appropriate,” I thought with a smile and buried it back in the stack.
A couple of days ago a photo from Humans In New York arrived in my news feed with a simple image of a man standing in the snow, and his thoughts on forgiveness. I shared it because it was so touching, and once again I thought it fitting. The theme of grace and compassion was making itself known to me.
So, finally it’s Christmas. So far I’ve successfully made the trek to the woods on our family’s land to cut down the biggest, scraggliest tree in the forest; decorated the house with a motley assortment of hand-me-down ornaments; decked out the fanciest gingerbread house you ever did see; and even purchased a few small presents. More importantly, I can honestly say that I’m truly looking forward to traipsing around the town from one family gathering to the next, celebrating baby’s first Christmas with our brand new little lady snuggled into her car seat.
Up until a couple of months ago I wasn’t sure if I would be so lucky. 2013 was a big year. It was as if a tremendous ocean trawler plowed through our lives and managed to dredge up every last contentious creature lurking in the depths of our sea of family issues. There were lots of bad feelings, and for a long while the door was closed on any communication.
Then six months ago our daughter made a dramatic entrance into the world with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, completely unresponsive, and we were told she might not make it. Fortunately, she’s a trooper and all is quite well but, needless to say, this kind of heart-wrenching close call — and the ever inspiring miracle of birth itself — helped put things into perspective. We were able to put differences aside and come together as a growing family to enjoy the marvel of her existence.
During our family estrangement I remember asking my partner on a few occasions, “I wonder what we’ll do at Christmas?” If nothing else, it’s a time of year that forces you to check in with where you’re at and consciously decide how you’re going to manage any uncomfortable relations. Like, are you making that phone call? Are you going to that dinner? Do you just send a card?
With this being Zadie’s first year, I want to make it a special one. We’re purposefully making a concerted effort to do things like actually put up a tree, listen to carols, bake cookies, go on a sleigh ride — and above all else, dissolve family conflicts.
“You’re the most wonderful present in allll of the land,” I said in a sing-song voice during playtime this morning, and it’s true. Almost losing her before I even knew her has given me the presence of mind to do whatever it takes to honour the fact that it’s an absolute miracle to be alive.
So, whether it’s baby’s first Christmas, or your 33rd celebration as it were, just like the guy in the Humans Of New York photo said, “Forgiveness keeps relationships moving. Without forgiveness, everything comes to an end.”
Cynthia Dennis lives in Prince Edward Island with her partner and their new baby daughter Zadie.